A Year of GF Tech: Top 10 Stories from 2020
By Michael Mullaney
GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF) shared a wealth of technology news this year. As we prepare to turn the page on 2020, we have collected the greatest GF tech stories of the year.
From pushing forward the frontiers of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), to accelerating automotive semiconductors, to harnessing the speed of light with silicon photonics, GF spent the year transforming the industry that continues to change our world.
10. PDKs Get the Spotlight
Computer chips in automotive, aviation, smartphones, and other applications must be unquestionably reliable and perform exactly as expected. Developing and manufacturing these chips requires the ability to accurately model, simulate, and verify their designs. The process design kit (PDK) makes this possible.
The humble PDK found itself in the spotlight in 2020. Our blog post, PDKs: Powerful Enablers of First-Pass Silicon Success tells the story of how GF PDKs help our customers effectively create designs on 22FDX™, 12LP, and our many other differentiated platforms.
In 2020, we also announced some new ways in which we’re improving and enhancing GF PDKs. One is launching support of Open-Access based Interoperable PDKs, or iPDKs, for our 22FDX platform. Expanding our support to iPDK provides customers greater flexibility to use the design suite tools of their choice. Another great story highlighting PDKs was working with our ecosystem partner Mentor to add machine learning enhancements to the PDK of our 12LP+ solution.
9. GTC 2020 Goes Virtual
GF’s signature annual series of events, the Global Technology Conference (GTC), went virtual this year. With thousands of attendees, and nearly 125 guest speakers – including renowned visionaries, leaders, and technologists – sharing their unique insight and perspective on 5G, AI, IoT, and other topics, GTC was a big win for GF and for the semiconductor industry.
This year’s GTC was held in a virtual conference center. While of course not the same as a face-to-face conference, the immersive environment allowed for rich interaction and communications. We received great feedback from attendees both on the content of our 100+ sessions, as well as the virtual setting.
8. GF Raises a SHIELD
It’s no secret that semiconductors are highly sensitive, and GF is trusted every day with information regarding our customers’ proprietary intellectual property and products.
This year, we launched GF SHIELD. The comprehensive platform embraces GF’s years of experience manufacturing the world’s most secure semiconductor solutions for the U.S government, the defense and aerospace industry, as well as manufacturing in accordance with the international Common Criteria standard.
GF SHIELD extends these world-class security capabilities to all of our customers. From the initial meeting, through development, design, fabrication, delivery, and even disposal of scrap – and every step between – GF SHIELD is in place to ensure a customer’s products and sensitive information remain secure. Click here to read more about GFShield.
7. 5G Gets a Boost
So much of what you love about your smartphone – reliable connectivity, great sound, sharp display, and more – is enabled by GF silicon. Mobility and 5G are always on our minds and this year was no exception. As our very own Dr. Bami Bastani said:
“Eight out of ten smartphones on the market today include GLOBALFOUNDRIES manufactured silicon, and the demand for our differentiated RF solutions continues to skyrocket as the industry transitions to 5G … The 5G revolution would not be possible without GLOBALFOUNDRIES and our industry-leading specialty RF solutions.”
In 2020, we blogged about GF being the world’s only foundry with in-house mmWave testing capabilities, and how this and other post-fab turnkey services are accelerating 5G by helping customers bring their products to market faster and more cost-effectively.
We were also excited to announce the arrival of 22FDX+, the next generation of our best-in-class FDX platform, to meet the ever-growing need for higher performance and ultra-low power requirements of connected devices. The first specialty solution to be available on the 22FDX+ platform will 22FDX RF+, optimized to boost the performance of front-end-module (FEM) designs for 5G smartphones.
Check out this video of GF CEO Tom Caulfield having a conversation with Robert Donahue, CEO of 5G customer Anokiwave.
6. Accelerating AutoPro
In 2018, mid-sized cars contained an average $410 worth of semiconductors. By 2030, that figure is forecast to be nearly $1,100 per car. GF is uniquely positioned to support and accelerate this growth, thanks to our rich experience and expertise in the auto space, and the peerless performance and flexibility of our 22FDX platform.
We are pedal-to-the-metal on auto at GF, and our blog post, GF’s AutoPro™ Solutions Drive Automotive Electronics Forward, details how our broad portfolio of differentiated solutions and our AutoPro Solutions service package uniquely support all automotive technical, packaging/testing, sourcing and quality requirements.
Said GF’s Michael Brucker:
“AutoPro enables us to pull resources from every relevant area of our organization in an integrated fashion to ensure that the design is capable and robust enough for the intended use, producible on the required timeline, and that it will lead to a quality part. If not, we work with the customer to change it, based on our decade-plus experience serving automotive customers.”
5. Making AI Smarter
Across all industries and technologies, the scope, complexity, and promise of artificial intelligence, or AI, increasingly came into focus in 2020. As outlined in our blog post, The Challenge and Opportunity of Reducing Power on AI Processors, the power requirement of AI is central to shaping its future.
GF has embraced this challenge as an opportunity, with the credo “build smarter, not smaller chips.” This strategy was captured in a white paper by The Linley Group, titled Building Better AI Chips. It was also evident in our July story announcing a new AI chip created in partnership innovation hub Imec, built on 22FDX using a promising new architecture, which demonstrates incredible power efficiency.
Arguably our biggest AI story of the year was the announcement that GF’s 12LP+ solution completed technology qualification is ready for production. GF’s most advanced FinFET solution, 12LP+ is optimized for AI accelerator applications, and builds upon our successful 12LP platform.
GF’s own Amir Faintuch sums it up artfully:
“Artificial intelligence is on a trajectory to become the most disruptive technology of our lifetime … It is increasingly clear that the power efficiency of AI systems – in particular how many operations you can wrest from a watt of power – will be among the most critical factors a company considers when deciding to invest in data centers or edge AI applications.”
Our new 12LP+ solution, Faintuch said, tackles this challenge head-on and is optimized, “obsessively so,” with AI in mind.
4. IoT Continue to Push the Edge
Many of us may not realize how much we rely on the Internet of Things, or IoT, on a daily basis. Have you ever asked your smart speaker about the weather? Or checked who was at your front door with your smart camera? Maybe adjusted the heat with your app-controlled thermostat, or checked your heart rate with your smart wristband? Then you’re connected with the IoT.
GF enables the connectivity of IoT devices and our expertise in RF, 5G and AI helps improve the battery life of IoT devices, by allowing them to process data efficiently, without the need for spending power to send that data to a network or the web.
Our 22FDX platform, with its incredible performance and ultralow power requirements, is perfectly suited for IoT application. (Its just-announced successor, 22FDX+, will extend this IoT leadership far into the future.) In 2020, we announced two exciting new IoT applications built on 22FDX.
First, GF is partnering with Movano Inc. to advance the commercialization of Movano’s wearable, non-invasive continuous glucose monitor, which is currently in development. Additionally, GreenWaves Technologies announced its new hearables platform, which enables state-of-the-art features such as scene-aware active noise cancellation and neural network-based noise reduction.
In another story about 22FDX’s unique Adaptive Body feature, Steve Tieg, CEO of GF IoT/AI customer Perceive, said:
“GF's 22FDX platform has a tremendous amount of horsepower, and its power advantages, low leakage, and adaptive body bias feature make it an excellent choice for IoT applications like ours.”
3. Tech Giving Back
This year, with all of its unprecedented challenges, also saw the tech and semiconductor industry come together to make real impacts in their communities.
Through our GlobalGives initiative, GF donated critical masks, gloves, and other personal protection equipment to those who needed it most. Globally, GF donated more than 130,000 facemasks in our communities. In the U.S., our employee-driven facemask donation program fulfilled more than 1,750 requests, shipping out 85,000 masks to health care workers, first responders, and other high-risk individuals. Our tremendous Fab 8 logistics team went above and beyond to make this possible.
GF also gave $1.6 million in corporate donations, plus an additional $500,000 contributed by employees, to 27 charities across 11 GF sites. Most of these charities were local/regional, and chosen specifically by our employees for making an impact in the local community.
To keep spirits high amidst the pandemic, a group of GF employees wrote and performed this song to share with colleagues around the world.
2. Innovating Ahead
It is impossible to overstate the importance of innovation to our industry. While innovation may mean different things to different companies, for GF it means making smarter chips with rich features, optimized for specific applications, and as power-efficient as possible. As our CEO Tom Caulfield said at our GTC 2020 event, this is all on the path to accelerating the digital transformation that is already underway:
"GF has focused our entire company on building a number of innovative solutions that can flatten the curve and significantly lower the power consumption of the digital infrastructure ... We are redefining the leading-edge of innovation."
Within GF, we promote a culture of innovation and inventiveness. Our blog post, “Master Inventors” Driving Innovation and Differentiation at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, dives deep into the importance and impact of our Master Inventor program. Through the program, GF bestows the coveted title of Master Inventor upon a select colleagues with at least 20 issued U.S. patents and who have a demonstrated track record of technical accomplishments and IP asset creation. To date, more than 50 GF employees have been honored with the title Master Inventor.
Another way GF innovates is by collaborating with many of the world’s leading academic researchers.
Through our University Partnership Program, GF benefits from the expertise of these thinkers and experimentalists, while providing them with access to our technology to demonstrate innovative designs. Read about some of our R&D on 6G technology in the blog post, GF Partners with Leading Researchers on 6G Technologies.
1. Specialty Goes Mainstream
With so many exciting announcements this year, it’s been a challenge to narrow them down into a curated selection. Here are a few final quick-hit pieces of good news:
GlobalFoundries Has Quietly Become A Player In Silicon Photonics Manufacturing: “Through strategic acquisitions … and fruitful partnerships … GlobalFoundries quietly became a force in silicon photonics. It’s already captured 10% of the foundry business—if it continues at this rate, it will soon be impossible to overlook.”
22FDX For the Win: “To date, GF’s 22FDX platform has realized $4.5 billion in design wins, with more than 350 million chips shipped to customers around the world.”
28HV Solution Accelerates GF Leadership in OLED Display Drivers for Mobile Devices: “With more than 75 million units shipped to leading smartphone suppliers, GF’s 28HV solution is optimized to enable faster, brighter, sharper, and more power-efficient OLED displays.”
55 BCDLite Solution Positions GF for Continued Leadership in Audio Amplifiers for Mobile Devices: “With more than 3 billion units shipped, GF’s 55 BCDLite solution is featured in five of seven of today’s leading top-tier premium smartphones.”
GLOBALFOUNDRIES Delivers Industry’s First Production-ready eMRAM on 22FDX Platform for IoT and Automotive Applications: “GF’s eMRAM allows designers to extend their existing IoT and microcontroller unit architectures to access the power and density benefits of technology nodes below 28nm.”