Behind the Scenes at GF’s Fab 1 in Dresden

With our talented and diverse workforce and at-scale manufacturing footprint spanning the U.S., Europe and Asia, GlobalFoundries (GF) is a trusted technology source to our customers around the world. 

While all of our advanced manufacturing facilities, or fabs, are dedicated to delivering the feature-rich chips that are pervasive in everyday life and vital to the global economy, each GF fab is unique and offers its own advantages and opportunities. 

To get an insider’s look into our global manufacturing operations in Germany, we sat down with Manfred Horstmann, Vice President and General Manager of Fab 1. 

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Manfred. 

Very happy to do so. 

To start the conversation, can you tell us about the semiconductors manufactured at Fab 1? 

 At Fab 1 we build many different types of chips, on multiple platforms including 22nm and 28nm technology, as well as 40nm and 55nm technology. The entire portfolio is extremely feature-rich, and we work closely with our business units to ensure our technologies target what our customers need both now and in the future. 

 For example, in Dresden we manufacture the industry’s most advanced 28nm high-power technology, which is used for OLED displays in many of the world’s leading smartphones. We also make the industry-leading 22FDX® platform with RF and mmWave capabilities used in smart home, IoT (internet of things) devices or 5G-capable chips. Importantly, we also make chips that are used widely in automobiles, including the radars that are key for driver assistance systems. 

You mentioned smartphones and automotive – where else are these chips used? 

Chips built in Fab 1 are everywhere! Our BCD technologies are used as audio chips in phones. We also make logic chips that do the data-crunching for smartphone cameras, and our 28ISP solution is one of the most-used chips for this application. Sticking with smartphones, in addition to enabling the latest 5G and WiFi 6 connectivity features, our 22FDX technology is also used for power management and helps our phones last longer between charges. In addition to phones and cars, you can find GF built chips in GPS devices, in wearable devices including wristband health trackers, other IoT devices, tablet computers, and in robotic systems. 

 It’s important to note that the many features we can add to our process technologies, from high voltage, to embedded nonvolatile memory, and auto qualification, position chips built by GF are the go-to solutions for so many different applications, in different industry segments. 

Tell us about the Fab 1 team who make these chips.  

The Fab 1 team is very committed and passionate about their work. They have a strong technical foundation, they know what they are doing, and they work very effectively as a team. They are authentic and they get things done. It is also an extremely diverse team. There are more than 47 nations and nationalities represented among Fab 1 employees, all working together as a team. 

Individuals on the team have many different talents and strengths, so we always have someone stepping up and flexing these strengths to help drive emerging projects and topics. This knowledge base and initiative are key assets that are particularly vital as our fab grows. We are ramping Fab 1 fast, and it’s all-hands-on-deck. We are working together to develop pragmatic solutions. 

Adding semiconductor manufacturing capacity is no easy task. How is the ramp progressing? 

It’s going extremely well. The team is committed to the ramp, which in Fab 1 we call the “Ramp of the Decade.” It kicked off in 2020 when our CEO Tom Caulfield announced GF would be investing to grow its manufacturing capacity in Dresden. The ramp is fully underway, and we are in the midst of equipping our cleanroom with more than 400 new tools and sub tools. Last year we grew our shipments by more than 50%, and our goal is to continue growing shipments this year and into 2023 and 2024. 

One major consideration as we ramp is that the cleanroom doesn’t have empty space. This means for all the tools we move in, we also need to move out older tools or move them around to make more space. This adds another layer of complexity to the process. At any moment we have roughly 100 tools in installation while production remains full steam ahead. It’s a very busy time! But as busy as it is, our line yield is not just stable, it’s increasing. So quality is good. This outcome is only possible when the whole team is committed and working closely together. 

Are you in frequent contact with the other GF Fabs and GMs? 

Absolutely. The Dresden site is ramping, and we are in close communication with the other sites. It’s true ONEGF collaboration. For example, some team members from Fab 7 in Singapore have been spending time at Fab 1 to help us with certain aspects of installing or qualifying a new tool. We also exchange parts and materials with Fab 7, and work together with Fab 8 on specific materials or projects such as deuterium gas recovery and recycling. The global group of GMs work extremely well together, which is an advantage for both GF and our customers. This is particularly important these days, when supply chains are stressed worldwide. We have sent spare parts around, we’ve sent chemicals around, and we help each other. It’s really great how closely we work together. 

Can you tell us about your path to becoming the GM of Fab 1? 

I like to say that I’m a kid of this company. I grew up with this Dresden team. After receiving my Ph.D. from RTWH Aachen University in 1997, I worked in research and development for AMD in Silicon Valley until 1999. After returning to Dresden I spent time on different R&D and tech development teams focusing on devices and technologies, helping introduce SOI to the fab. I went from an entry-level device engineer to the director of devices and development. When GF was founded in 2009, it was a huge opportunity for me to continue growing, and I had the chance to lead GF’s 28nm technology development and productization. A few years later, I had another opportunity to form an integrated technology, yield, and contamination-free manufacturing team. In 2017 I was named vice president and focused on the ramp of 22FDX in Dresden, and the integration of features like BCD, high voltage, RF, etc. into our 28nm and 22nm platforms. In 2020 I had the big opportunity to become the GM of Fab 1. 

So, basically, I had a 23-year career in tech development, and then my path led me for the past 2 years to general management. I have learned so much from my GF colleagues, the Fab 1 team, and from our customers and partners. 

We hear a lot about Silicon Saxony. What is it, and what is GF’s role? 

Silicon Saxony is a group of about 400 companies that make up Europe’s biggest semiconductor industry cluster. GF and Fab 1 are playing a big and active role in Silicon Saxony, as we are the largest semiconductor site in Europe. Through Silicon Saxony, we aim to drive projects that are relevant to GF and all semiconductor companies here. Right now, one key challenge is talent. We are always looking to hire talented people. This includes working with technical schools and universities on semiconductor coursework and creating positions for graduates. It also includes recruiting technicians and engineers from other industries into the semiconductor segment as well as recruiting people from all over Europe to relocate to Saxony, to live and work here. Another topic we drive is materials management, looking for ways to build more robust supply chains within our region and throughout Europe. 

Can you say more about what Fab 1 is doing to attract talent? 

Talent management is really a key focus for us right now. We are hiring talented people from all across Europe and around the world. As I mentioned, the Fab 1 team now represents 47 nations, all working together to move our fab and our company forward. 

In addition to recruitment, we are building a pipeline of talent. We work with technical schools and universities throughout Germany and all of Europe on internship-to-hire programs, including some programs with a focus on hiring more women. We’ve actually doubled the size of this program over the past few years. 

Overall, our team is more diverse than ever. And we are fortunate that our site’s attrition rate is very low. Once someone joins the Fab 1 team, they tend to stay with us. I think a key factor is that Fab 1’s culture is very open to new ideas, we have a relatively flat organization compared to other companies, and individuals can really see the results and impact of their contributions. 

One final question for you. You’ve been in the semiconductor business for a long time. What excites you about chip manufacturing in 2022 and beyond? 

I am passionate about semiconductors. I really love this technology and how it enables so many other technologies and devices that we need in our daily lives. Something I loved from the beginning is how international this industry is. No other industry is so international, and I enjoy working with people from different countries and regions around the world. Manufacturing semiconductors is such a complex process, you really need people from different cultures, sharing their experience and perspectives to make it work well. This keeps me driving forward. 

Click here to read more about Manfred and GF’s Fab 1.