Onsemi’s EFK Fab Acquire Ups Its Sustainability Recreation

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Onsemi successfully acquired GlobalFoundries’ (GF) 300-mm East Fishkill (EFK), NY, site and fabrication facility, helping onsemi manufacture products with high gross margins in high-growth and sustainable applications like electric vehicles (EVs) and energy infrastructure, CEO Hassane El-Khoury said in an exclusive interview with EE Times.

With the acquisition, onsemi added more than 1,000 engineers and technologists. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and J.D. Grom, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on CHIPS Act implementation, were on hand for the event celebrating the acquisition, emphasizing the significance of domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

“EFK offers an improved manufacturing cost structure due to the economics of scale of a 300-mm wafer compared to smaller wafer sizes,” El-Khoury told EE Times. “While the highly automated wafer fab equipped with advanced toolsets enables us to produce superior quality chips that meet automotive standards, it is the skilled and experienced engineers that will improve our ability to ramp products to volume and reduce our time to market. With the EFK site, onsemi is adding complex CMOS capabilities [including 65-nm technology nodes] that are required for image sensor production to its manufacturing footprint.”

Automotive OEMs, renewable energy companies and industrial manufacturers are some of the customers that require these advanced products, he added.

Picture of ribbon-cutting ceremony for onsemi's EFK fab acquisition.
Ribbon-cutting ceremony for onsemi’s EFK fab acquisition. (Source: onsemi)

Workforce and markets

The purchase plan was in the works for a long while: In the last three years, onsemi has focused on securing a long-term future for the EFK fab and its employees, making substantial investments in its 300-mm capabilities to accelerate growth in the company’s power, analog and sensing products, and enable a more cost-effective manufacturing structure.

The EFK fab is the largest onsemi manufacturing facility in the U.S., according to the company. It adds advanced CMOS capabilities to the company’s manufacturing profile, including 65-nm technology nodes with specialized processing capabilities required for image-sensor production.

The transaction entails an exclusive agreement to provide differentiated semiconductor solutions to GF, as well as investments in research and development, as the parties collaborate to build future growth.

Short term, the ramp at our EFK site helps onsemi to ensure continuous supply to customers of our intelligent power technologies, especially in the automotive sector,” El-Khoury said. “As a highly automated fab with advanced toolsets, EFK is also able to meet the most stringent quality requirements as, for example, demanded by the automotive industry.

“Long term, moving production from less efficient fabs to EFK and making significant investments in the site’s 300-mm capabilities gives onsemi a key competitive advantage by improving its manufacturing cost structure. It also enables high growth and differentiation in onsemi’s power, analog and sensing technologies, which are instrumental in accelerating onsemi’s growth in key applications such as 5G, EVs, ADAS, solar, energy infrastructure and factory automation.”

The ability to run such a diverse portfolio of technologies using shared tools with different requirements and specifications is one of the challenges, according to El-Khoury. The specifications and requirements for discrete production processes and tools are distinct from those for image sensor products and must be carefully managed.

“Another challenge is that this being the only 300-mm fab, there is no exact copy for bringing in new technologies. Instead, processes need to be developed and scaled to 300mm from smaller wafer size fabs,” he added.

Recruiting a highly skilled workforce in this geographic location is difficult compared with other locations where a robust ecosystem of technologists and engineers already exists. This is one of the reasons onsemi is supporting regional and local institutions, such as high schools and community colleges, El Khoury said.

Upcoming community programs will include cultivating educational ecosystems, supporting future innovators from high school to Ph.D., and fostering local skilled labor development through community college partnerships,” he said. “Onsemi will also work with under-served communities and high schools to help provide a focus on STEM. As part of developing a strong talent pipeline, onsemi recently pledged to donate $500 thousand to Rochester Institute of Technology over the next 10 years to support projects and education targeting engineers in the semiconductor industry. Outside of institutions, we pride ourselves on focusing on cultivating a strong sense of community and having a deep history of giving back to local communities we work and live in.”

Image of onsemi CEO Hassane El-Khoury speaking on EFK fab acquisition.
onsemi CEO Hassane El-Khoury. (Source: onsemi)

Sustainability a strong focus

Fluctuating energy prices and a growing awareness of environmental impact are advancing a new era of environmentally friendly electronics production. Given that the electronics industry is responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, there is an urgent need for innovative research and development aimed at addressing this issue. Recently, a number of promising new technologies have emerged, which bodes well for the long-term prospects of the industry.

Semiconductor manufacturing can both be a resource and carbon emissions intensive process, according to El-Khoury. This is due to direct emissions (Scope 1) from process gases with high global warming potential used during wafer etching or chamber cleaning, and indirect emissions (Scope 2) that occur from use of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling of equipment.

Corporations, particularly electronic device manufacturers (semiconductors), have initiated environmental, social and governance initiatives in response to severe climate change. The increasing temperature of the Earth’s surface as a result of the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels around the world has disrupted its entire ecosystem. Damage to natural flora and fauna, melting ice caps, erratic climate, and rising temperatures are examples of the impact. The sustainability of the semiconductor and electronics industries is being enhanced by both government regulations and green investment initiatives.

“As an industry, we know there is work to be done and believe that, through continued collaboration and innovation, we can drive meaningful greenhouse gas and resource reductions across the industry,” El-Khoury said. “In November, onsemi, along with more than 60 other founding members, formed the Semiconductor Climate Consortium, demonstrating commitment as the first global collaborative of semiconductor ecosystem companies focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain.”

Industries across different sectors are responsible for the increasing carbon emissions in the environment. This magnitude of carbon emissions, also known as the carbon footprint, is increasingly large for the semiconductor manufacturing industry. With the rising demand for faster and more efficient hardware platforms, a large amount of energy generated from fossil fuels contributes to growing pollution.

As a result of the global threat posed by climate change and its adverse effects, semiconductor device manufacturers like onsemi are setting an example by not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their own supply chain, but also developing products that will assist their customers in doing the same.

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