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Google and GloFo Collaborate on Open Source Chip Manufacturing Venture




Earlier this week, Google and GlobalFoundries (GloFo, or GF) joined forces to advance the former’s open silicon initiative. In addition to announcing a “groundbreaking” open source chip manufacturing venture, the partner has released a process design kit (PDK) for his GF 180 MCU technology platform. The intense brew of open source ingenuity and foundry access hopes to inspire creativity and innovation in the hardware space.

Codenamed GF 180MCU, the PDK and associated projects will provide access to manufacturing using GloFo’s 180nm process technology. In this way, our partners are pioneering offering open source access to affordable mass production to a wider range of customers.

As PC enthusiasts read about technology stalwarts progressing from single-digit nanometer process chips to the Angstrom era, it might be easy to ridicule the GF180 process. However, Google expects 180nm to continue to be popular for chips such as motor controllers, general-purpose MCUs and his PMICs, IoT sensors, dual-frequency RFID, and motor drives. Additionally, the project should foster innovation and confirmation that the foundry ecosystem’s open source model is viable.

Leading up to this announcement, Google had been working with SkyWater Technologies for two years after releasing one of their PDKs under the Apache 2.0 license. During this time, Google completed his six shuttle runs, filtering 350 unique chip designs from the community to create 240 projects that were manufactured “for free.”

Interest in the Open MPW program has increased and MPW-7 submissions have begun. (Image credit: Google/GloFo)

Post-pandemic, Google believes we are moving into a “new golden age” for semiconductors, where diverse applications such as mobile, IoT, and automotive are all growing strongly. Additionally, GloFo’s open-source chip-manufacturing venture will help give the movement significant momentum.

GloFo is currently the fourth largest chip foundry, producing approximately 6% of the world’s semiconductors. Capable of producing over 16 million wafers per year at 180nm, he plans to increase capacity to over 22 million by 2026.

“We need you,” Google concluded the blog post by saying to software developers and hardware engineers, researchers and undergraduates, enthusiasts and industry veterans, start-ups and industry insiders. In some ways, this appeal makes the project look like a gamble by Google. An unknown genius is betting on the chance to create something special that will meaningfully kickstart the open source silicon ecosystem.




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