Doing the research and building the facilities needed to churn out impossibly small transistors doesn't come cheap. As EE Times reports, GlobalFoundries CEO Doug Grose recently spoke at the GSA Expo in Santa Clara, and he quoted some figures that really put the whole foundry business in perspective.
The research-and-development costs alone are exorbitant, and they only keep rising as technology gets more advanced. Developing 90- to 65-nm process technology will set you back $310-400 million, said Grose, but you'd better be prepared to plunk down $600-900 million for 45- to 32-nm nodes and a whopping $1.3 billion to go down to 22 and 12 nm.
How about facilities? That'll cost you $2.5-3.5 billion if you want a fab sophisticated enough to produce 90- or 65-nm wafers. Here, too, costs go up dramatically with finer processes: $3.5-4 billion at the 45- and 32-nm nodes, then $4.5-6 billion at 22 and 12 nm.
EE Times says Grose commented, ''Despite the technical challenges, the biggest hurdle to continued innovation (in the semiconductor industry) is economics." No wonder AMD spun off its manufacturing business, and ATIC, GlobalFoundries' co-owner, sought consolidation by moving to acquire Chartered Semiconductor last month.