CEO interview: Sonderman on SkyWater's technology foundry model: Page 2 of 4

January 17, 2019 //By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: Sonderman on SkyWater's technology foundry model
SkyWater Technology Foundry Inc. is approaching the second anniversary of its formation as a "technology foundry" housed in mature facilities in Bloomington, Minnesota. We connected with company boss Tom Sonderman for an update on the development and plans for one of the industry's newest foundries.

At the same time SkyWater is offering R&D facilities to help customers develop technologies and mature them to the point of commercial or production maturity. These innovation engineering services are operating in the areas of superconductivity for quantum and supercomputing, silicon photonics for high-speed communications, MEMS, bio-medical circuits, rad-hard circuitry and more.

SkyWater also offers support to move manufacturing technologies in and out of the fab. This can happen in both directions, Sonderman said.

Sonderman explained that a manufacturing process can be commercialized in Bloomington and taken to reasonable production volume on 200mm wafers there, but when greater volume is required SkyWater would be able to transfer the process out to a higher capacity fab allowing the customer to prosper and allowing SkyWater to make room for more innovation engagements. Similarly, volume foundries often wish to balance their production towards a lower mix of higher volume designs and therefore want to move smaller volume production out. "We are working with a large foundry that is moving technology into our fab. We are in a mode where we can serve that gap in the market," said Sonderman.

Sonderman emphasized that SkyWater would not operate as an overflow manufacturing facility that could be whiplashed around by bigger foundries. Those transfers in and out would essentially be one-time only. "We are not in the model of a second source. We would own the customer and the relationship," he said.

Sonderman continued: "The distinction between our Technology Foundry model and the specialty foundry or More-than-Moore foundry is this. The More-than-Moore approach emphasizes the ability to support customers competing behind the leading edge of silicon based on unique IP and the ability to process some materials beyond silicon. SkyWater takes a similar position in the respect that we are supporting geometries not at the leading edge however, we are focused on providing innovation engineering services to customers to develop processes for new technologies and devices that simply wouldn't be compatible with a PDK at these other fabs."

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