Every year, Globalfoundries makes a series of big announcements at its annual Global Technology Conference known as GF (short for Globalfoundries) GTC. This year Globalfoundries held GF GTC North America 2020 virtually; like many others, we’ve grown accustomed to attending virtually in place of being there in-person due to COVID. Globalfoundries took a slightly different angle with its virtual conference by creating a virtual conference floor with exhibitor banners and virtual booths. I like that Globalfoundries tried to make GTC seem like it was still happening in San Francisco and that you were merely tuning in from afar. Even so, speakers like ARM’s CEO Simon Segars and Qualcomm’s CEO Steve Mollenkopf packed the conference’s main hall morning speaker lineup. A big theme of GF’s GTC and something the company has been preaching for a few years now is that it is a differentiated foundry and one that builds products that customers need and not just for the sake of having the latest node.
22FDX+ follow-up to $4.5B revenue 22FDX
One of the most significant updates out of GF GTC 2020 was the new 22FDX+ platform, an update to the popular 22FDX process, which many of Globalfoundries’ customers already use. Globalfoundries says that 22FDX is so popular that it alone has generated $4.5 billion in design wins, with more than 350 million chips shipped worldwide. 22FDX is a 22nm process using FD-SOI (fully depleted silicon on insulator) that delivers high performance at low power and cost. Much like 22FDX, 22FDX+ targets the IoT, 5G, automotive, and satellite markets and continues to serve Globalfoundries’ customers with a broader set of features. The first specialty solution that will utilize GF’s 22FDX+ process is 22FDX RF+, including digital and RF enhancements. Globaldfoundries has designed 22FDX RF+ to boost front-end module (FEM) performance, aligning with GF’s RF leadership. Globalfoundries says that 22FDX RF+ will be available in Q1 2021, and manufacturing will happen at its 300mm production line at Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany.
OLED display drivers detailed
In addition to 22FDX+, Globalfoundries gave some more updates on its new 28HV solution for OLED display drivers. Globalfoundries says that its customers have already shipped 75 million units of its new 28HV process, shipping in volume production since Q4 2019. Globalfoundries has optimized 28HV for high-voltage using the 28nm process node. It is also the only pure-play foundry today on 28nm for display applications, giving GF’s customers a unique advantage. Globalfoundries started building products for the OLED market, starting with its 55nm platform and 28HV is the 3rd generation of GF’s efforts in the space. Globalfoundries says that it has already shipped over 135 million total units of its 55nm and 40nm OLED display driver solutions, the predecessors to 28HV. Globalfoundries says that several ecosystem partners are approaching qualification of IP enhancements to the 28HV process design kit, which should provide designers with an even more efficient design and faster time to market with 28HV. Globalfoundries manufactures its 28HV solution at GF’s 300mm production line at Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany.
Movano and Mentor alliances
Globalfoundries also announced a few significant partnerships to further its position as a leader in the semiconductor market. The first partnership is with Movano, a health-focused technology company creating a wearable, non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring system. Movano uses a patented RF sensor platform using Globalfoundries 22FDX solution to capture relevant data from the user’s body to get an accurate blood glucose reading without penetrating the skin. In addition to the impressive Movano partnership, Globalfoundries also announced a new collaboration with Mentor to launch a new semiconductor verification solution. Mentor is one of the world’s leading semiconductor verification vendors today and has decades of experience in the space and is a long-time close partner of Globalfoundries. I can remember seeing Mentor at Globalfoundries’ second GTC back in 2011. Mentor is partnering with Globalfoundries to launch a new semiconductor verification solution embedded with Globalfoundries’ calling advanced machine learning capabilities. The new design for manufacturability (DFM) kit leverages machine learning to accelerate designing for GF’s upcoming 12LP+ platform and may deliver a more efficient experience and faster time to market. This new DFM kit is an update to the process design kit (PDK) for GF’s 12LP+, a process optimized for AI training and inference applications, and is ready for production at GF’s Fab 8 in Malta, New York. Globalfoundries expects the new ML-enhanced DFM solution will roll out in both the 12LP and 22FDX PDKs in Q4 2020.
GF SHIELD security
Last but certainly not least is a security announcement from Globalfoundries called GF SHIELD, a program designed to safeguard customer data and IP further. Because Globalfoundries is an American fab with predominantly American customers with many defense and aerospace customers, the company is extending its security measure for those customers to all customers. Globalfoundries has already deployed GF SHIELD company-wide among all 16,000 employees and has rigorously trained them to meet the GF SHIELD security protocols. GF SHIELD itself incorporates IT security, product security, operational security, and cybersecurity in every step of the customer experience from initial meeting through fabrication and delivery and even scrap disposal. Ever since semiconductors became a national security concern, there has been an increased focus on semiconductor security.
Globalfoundries continues to execute its promise to be a differentiated foundry that delivers solutions that customers both need today and want in the future. While Globalfoundries may no longer be a player in the bleeding edge process nodes, there is no business shortage for the company in delivering precisely the right specialized process to optimize for performance and cost.
The company has shown that its 22FDX is incredibly popular and will build on that popularity with 22FDX+ and 22FDX RF+. Globalfoundries’ leadership in RF is likely to continue as 5G continues to grow, and the need for integrated FEMs increases. Also, as the demand for OLED displays continues to grow, there will be more demand for the company’s 28HV solution to power those displays from phones to VR headsets and even automobiles. Globalfoundries partnerships with Mentor and Movano also show its willingness to grow its customer base and simplify adopting its unique processes more accessible than ever before. The company also indicates that it takes security very seriously and intends to deliver the highest IP and data security level through its new GF SHIELD program. I believe that Globalfoundries has done an exceptional job of showing how it is approaching the foundry business differently from its competitors and how that has become a winning formula at GF GTC 2020 North America. The company is setting itself up quite nicely as it gets ready for its public offering.
Note: This blog contains significant contributions by Moor Insights & Strategy senior analyst Anshel Sag.