Published in PC Hardware

SkyWater is a new US based and owned foundry player

by on20 April 2018


Doing a lot of work in Quantum Computing

We had a chance to chat with the Tom Sonderman,  the president of SkyWater - a  new/old US owned and operated semiconductor Fab. These guys can make a lot of interesting IoT, automotive and even quantum processing units and what makes it unique is that it is US owned and operated. 

The company was spun out from  Cypress manufacturing and has a similar business model to the AMD/GlobalFoundries play. Cypress Semiconductor Corporation is still the biggest customer for SkyWater but the SkyWater manufacturing fabs are bringing in a number of new customers. 

In October last year it hired manufacturing industry veteran Thomas Sonderman as the company president. Sonderman comes from the long history and executive roles at GlobalFoundries where he was vice president of manufacturing technology, and,  before that AMD. He played a key role in the formation of GlobalFoundries and separating AMD’s manufacturing fabs from the main business that essentially saved the existence of AMD.  Before  joining SkyWater, Sonderman was the group vice president and general manager for Rudolph Technologies' Integrated Solutions Group. 

SkyWater has a acquired 200mm semiconductor wafer manufacturing facility in Bloomington, Minnesota from Cypress Semiconductor Corporation in March 2017 and in a very short time managed to get a dozen customers on board. 

It has 500 plus employees based in Bloomington, MN and manufacture on 200mm wafers and the 130nm/90nm manufacturing node. This doesn’t sound cutting edge as some other players are manufacturing today in 10nm, but you have to realize that the cutting-edge manufacturing is also the most expensive and hardest to customize. Most customers don’t need the cutting edge. 

SkyWater has customers from government and defence agencies  and has the DMEA certification Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA) - which makes these manufacturing facilities  unique. 

Remember that GlobalFoundries had a Fab in Malta, New York state, and  is US based and operated, but this company has foreign ownership, a clear differentiation to SkyWater US' homefield advantage. With current US administration and the persistence to dominate in the technology being US based and owned that will definitely be attractive for government funded business. The winners of the future need to make sense of billons of bits of data that the massive IoT is creating.  

Quantum, DNA, Automotive, IoT, Medical market focus 

There are a lot of customers for the  Internet of Things space -  automotive and medical devices, for exmpla. Its play - which it considers to be unique -  includes advanced technologies for cloud, quantum computing and DNA synthesis and sequences. This is a future thing that has a chance to change the way we compute  in the early years of the  next decade. Quantum sounds very promising and can solve some problems that traditional 1 and 01 computers can’t. 

Another  perspective for SkyWater is the fact that this US owned and operated fab is also a pure play foundry. This according lets  customers do a non-standard customization of its products before it "ramps up. SkyWater helps with both development and a ramp up, it reckons.

It  calls itself a right sized operation as it is  big enough to deliver what it thinks industry leading operational performance and small enough to deliver custom services to the defense and supercomputing community. 

USA Home field advantage

DOD and Intelligence communities are unlikely to go to Taiwan based TSMC, Korean basedSamsung or any other Asian based leading edge manufacturers due to the sensitivity of  products and information. SkyWater technology foundry reckons it has solved that problem. 

When it comes to ASIC capability the SkyWater guys have already produced 200 semiconductor devices and over one billion devices manufactured with a rich IP library. It can offer a proven track record of developing custom technologies for various customers.  It specializes in areas like superconductors, photonics (Quantum Processing Units) and DNA Sequencing. 

When the time is right it will be able to offer 65nm manufacturing too, but 90 and 130 nm appears to be the right fit for most customers right now. T Manufacturing something today in 90 nm is a fraction of a cost of 14 or 10nm manufacturing and a lot of customers are aware of it. 

The  company is working on  future automotive products that even include QPUs (quantum processing units) for customers. Having a semiconductor that works at negative 273 °C or 0.015° K above absolute zero is definitely not a walk in a park. 

Can you imagine that your future self-driving car could have night vision too? Well, these things will all be possible in the future. 

Last modified on 20 April 2018
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