CEO interview: SkyWater foundry hits its stride; looks to Europe: Page 3 of 5

January 27, 2021 // By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: SkyWater foundry hits its stride; looks to Europe
Two years after we last conducted an interview with Tom Sonderman, CEO of foundry SkyWater Technology Inc., we find there has been plenty of activity with more on the horizon.

The other half of SkyWater's business is advanced technology services – essentially helping customers develop advanced manufacturing processes for specialist products. Sonderman said SkyWater now has 60 engagements with 40 customers.

Sonderman is enthusiastic about the carbon nanotube FET and rad-hard developments on 90nm. Rad-hard circuits are strategic for military purposes but there is also the prospect the same technology will migrate to consumer applications. "Companies are talking about datacenters in space and Wi-Fi and cellular basestations in space. We are taking the rad-hard process to 65nm," Sonderman said.

There is more room for more equipment in the extension to the fab, Sonderman said. In addition, Cypress had a floor set aside for testing and sorting. There is scope to make use of that area as a clean room to scale up copper manufacturing capability, Sonderman added. All this likely to be impacted by SkyWater's operation of an advanced packaging facility in Kissimmee, south of Orlando, in central Florida (see SkyWater to 'on-shore' packaging of chips in Florida).

Sonderman said that there are plans to partner there with European research institute IMEC on the production of silicon interposers for advanced chiplet-style manufacturing/packaging. There is 36,000 square foot of cleanroom manufacturing space and an additional 24,000 square foot of support and laboratory space not dedicated to manufacturing.

"IMEC's interposer technology will be a fundamental part of the facility. Advanced packaging is part of the CHIPS for America Act, a $24 billion initiative to support domestic IC production," said Sonderman. "The Florida facility has got engagements. They were awarded a DARPA contract which is why there is a team of IMEC engineers there. We expect to ramp production in 2021."

"Traditional OSAT companies [outsourced assembly and test] aren't really suited to heterogenous assembly," said Sonderman. It is also the case that the companies that do this at volume are nearly all located in south-east Asia. "We want to be able to support final assembly, package and test all in the US. If you look at something like the iPhone 12 mini, it is an exercise in heterogenous integration."

Next: Buy more fabs?

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