US foundry makes the case for a secure domestic chip production
SkyWater Technology’s expansion in Bloomington, Minnesota, has progressed quickly. The project started less than a year ago and on October 12, the company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the expansion.
The project has really been moving along quickly and has progressed ahead of schedule; just a month ago the company started tool installation. “This project has moved much faster than anyone expected, this building out there was nothing more than a hole in the ground last October and within a week it will be turned over to manufacturing. The speed of this project is a testament to the DOD's commitment and our commitment to securing our domestic supply chain,” said president and CEO, Thomas Sonderman, during the opening ceremony. The expansion is supported by the Department of Defense (DOD) with an investment of up to USD 170 million. The DOD’s investment was made under the Trusted and Assured Microelectronics (T&AM) program which is aimed at developing enhanced sources of microelectronics for the Department’s unique needs. Less than a year ago, SkyWater announced the multi-phase project to enhance microelectronics capabilities for the DOD and the Strategic Rad-Hard market by expanding its DOD-accredited facility. The facility expansion will also support technologies for commercial applications in extreme environments such as space and medical imaging. The plan is to launch the first Early Access Program MPW (Multi-Project Wafer) shuttles before the end of 2020, the company stated in a previous press release. Additionally, the expansion will enable SkyWater to add copper (Cu) interconnect process technology for enhanced mixed-signal device performance and interposer offerings for advanced packaging. The new Cu interconnect capability will, according to SkyWater, also be critical in supporting the company’s roadmap for more advanced node geometries beyond 90 nm. During the ceremony, the CEO pointed out that the electronics industry is showing a trend of increasing semiconductor content that reflects the demand for products that are smarter, faster, safer, and more convenient. And to meet these demands the industry is currently ready for what’s often called “the next wave of computing” – this artificial intelligence, the IoT, edge computing and electrical vehicles. “Now is the time for public-private partnerships to build advanced manufacturing technologies to make sure that the infrastructure needed to support the next wave of computing is developed domestically,” Thomas Sonderman said. The CEO also mentioned that recent trade and supply chain dynamics have highlighted the disparity between the U.S. position as a technology innovator and its lagging role of semiconductor manufacturing. These dynamics are driving federal legislation to facilitate national investment intended for re-shoring critical semiconductor manufacturing elements to improve security for both commercial and national security interests. And the expansion of SkyWater’s Bloomington, Minnesota facility is an example of how partnerships between the private and public sector can accelerate the regrowth of onshore advanced manufacturing capabilities. And while the completion of the project is something to be proud of, The CEO also mentions that it is important to recognize that its adversaries are funding vast amounts of money into their own tech sectors – “because they know the same expertise can secure a strategic position for their own countries.” “Continued investment in public-private partnerships is one powerful way for the US to maintain the advantage we've gained in this space,” Sonderman concludes.