Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Thursday, July 25, 2024

In Midst of Global Semiconductor Chip Shortage, DoD, Globalfoundries Expand Ties 

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The U.S. Defense Department and Globalfoundries are expanding their semiconductor manufacturing partnership by certifying the foundry’s most advanced fab complies with U.S. export controls intended to secure the chip manufacturing supply chain.

The DoD partnership reflects greater capacity utilization as Globalfoundries and other manufacturers are meanwhile scrambling to meet surging demand in the middle of a global chip shortage. Other commercial customers for Globalfoundries design services also emerged this week, including FPGA specialist Flex Logic Technologies.

Globalfoundries said its Fab 8 facility has been certified under U.S. export controls to supply DoD with secure chips based on its “differentiated” 45nm silicon-on-insulator technology. (Differentiation refers to greater chip reliability and reduced power consumption.)

The advanced facility in Malta, N.Y., is deemed compliant with the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and provisions of the Export Administration Regulations, the partners announced Monday (Feb. 15).

ITAR tracks sensitive military technologies to thwart illegal exports. Globalfoundries said this week it is currently in negotiations with DoD to add a “trusted accreditation” to the Fab 8 line.

Under the current agreement, the chip maker said it expects to deliver the first devices coming off its 45nm line in 2023. The manufacturer currently produces devices for U.S. military, aerospace and other sensitive applications at its Fab 9 facility in Burlington, Vt., and Fab 10 in East Fishkill, N.Y.

The agreement “is just one step the Department of Defense is taking to ensure the U.S. sustains the microelectronics manufacturing capability necessary for national and economic security,” DoD said. “This is a pre-cursor to major efforts contemplated by the recently passed CHIPS for America Act, championed by Senator Charles Schumer, which will allow for the sustainment and on-shoring of U.S. microelectronics capability.”

With final passage of the CHIPS Act late last year, Schumer, (D-N.Y.), the Senate majority leader, said he pressed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “to further expand the Department of Defense’s business with Globalfoundries….”

The foundry recently announced a land purchase option that would allow it to expand capacity at its $13 billion Fab 8 facility to meet growing DoD and industry demand.

Among its new commercial customers is Flex Logic. The embedded FPGA designer said Tuesday (Feb. 16) its 4K logic and DSP cores will use Globalfoundries 22FDX process technology. “We have seen substantial interest in 22FDX due to its special capabilities for fast, low-power integrated circuits especially for aerospace and communications,” said Geoff Tate, CEO and cofounder of Flex Logix.

“Embedded FPGA is in demand by customers to enable their chips to adapt to new algorithms and protocols,” Tate added.

As for the global chip shortage, a Globalfoundries spokesman noted late last week that “demand is through the roof,” with all its fabs running at or above capacity.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).