x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

GlobalFoundries chip plant expansion

Globalfoundries plans to extend one of its semiconductor chip fabrication plants in Singapore to increase wafer production capacity.

The GlobalFoundries
The GlobalFoundries "cleanroom" in its semiconductor plant in Dresden, Germany. The company plans to expand a similar facility in Singapore. Courtesy Atic

GlobalFoundries plans to extend one of its semiconductor chip fabrication plants in Singapore to increase wafer production capacity.

The extension is likely to be completed by the end of next year. Fab 7 has a production capacity of 50,000 silicon wafers a month but once the extension is completed, it will have a production capacity of 1 million 300-millimetre wafers per year.

Once the extension is completed, GlobalFoundries' Singapore facilities will be able to produce almost 3 million 200 and 300-millimetre (mm) wafers a year for the 40-95 nanometre (nm) silicon chips.

"This is something that is ongoing, the process is challenging." said Vish Srinivasan, the senior director at GlobalFoundries' Singapore site transformation office. "Converting from 200mm to 300mm requires tools assessment and processes alignment. And as we are also optimising our technology offerings, all these pose to be challenges to us and can take anywhere from six to 10 quarters."

The cost of expansion has yet to be finalised. GlobalFoundries, which is wholly owned by Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Investment Company, is also extending the cleaning room facility at its New York plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Semi-conductor chips have become a vital component of all digital devices today.

From smartphones to cars and digital clocks, these chips allow them to perform various functions. While the industry is generally heading towards smaller silicon chips with faster processing power, there is still demand for the large chips that have longer battery life and more power. Most recently, the Chinese fabless semiconductor company Rockchip launched a tablet device using GlobalFoundries' 28nm chips.

GlobalFoundries is the fastest-growing chip manufacturer in the world, according to IC Insights,which conducts market research analysis for the semiconductor industry. It estimated a 31 per cent growth in revenues for the company last year.

Momentum is growing [but] to maintain 31 per cent growth is a challenge," said Mr Srinivasan. "How we grow at this rate depends on people, customers, the whole ecosystem needs to work."

The company's production capacity grew 15 per cent last year. It is now targeting profitability by 2015.

"This is a technology marathon, a race. What we're selling at GlobalFoundries is not chips. It is technology processes and solutions. The chips are just a part of it," said Khaled Al Shamlan, the senior vice president within the general management team of GlobalFoundries Singapore.

"We have a technology department that does the job of defining worthy markets, where markets are heading and what apps will be needed in the future in order to find directions the company should go down. This is one of the most critical tasks that if we get right will help us get the right customers and skills to get ahead in the tech race."

There are 6,500 people working at GlobalFoundries Singapore, one of the county's largest employers in the private sector.