The MiniFoundry can solve long-standing problems that commercial entities subject to free-market pressures cannot. It will be free of the shareholder profit pressures and performance requirements that have forced commercial fabrication facilities to shed domestic operations in favor of offshore volume production. We believe that this is the only viable path to securing a reliable, uncontaminated supply of advanced technology tools and parts for U.S. government and its suppliers.
The incalculable value of the MiniFoundry will be the development of a method to design and manufacture low-volume microelectronics cost-effectively and securely on our own shores. This is the goal U.S. government strategists have been reaching for since the Defense Science Board Task Force issued its recommendations on High Performance Microchip Supply in 2005:
Developing cost-effective technology for the design and fabrication of low-production-volume, leading-edge technology ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) will require the combined efforts of DOD, the semiconductor industry, and semiconductor fabrication equipment suppliers. The industryâ€™s emphasis on manufacturing economies of scale has led to a manufacturing approach that is not sufficiently flexible for DODâ€™s special circuit needs. Commercial industry is now beginning to realize a need for economical, limited IC production as well.
Developing an alternative, more flexible approach to integrated circuit manufacturing demands a thorough reexamination of business models, technology, and manufacturing equipment design. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) attempted such a reexamination in the mid-1990s through its Microelectronics Manufacturing Science and Technology (MMST) program. That program had different goals than are required today. DDR&E should now take another look at ASIC production and formulate a program to address barriers to low- to medium-volume custom IC production.
The MiniFoundry will employ trusted foundry principles and serve all trusted suppliers. It will be available to support universities conducting research for government-funded programs and grants. Part of the operating staff will include graduate students (U.S. citizens only) who are engaged in such research. As such, it will be an important focus for restoring U.S. R&D capability in advanced semiconductors.
The American MiniFoundry will be the first bonafide secure facility dedicated to critical defense and military applications for the development and low volume manufacturing of advanced integrated devices on 200mm and 300mm wafers.
The other major value is the elimination of compromised and counterfeit products from the supply used in mission-critical infrastructure, military operations, and national security endeavors. We will work closely with government experts to establish and maintain maximum security for the operation. We believe that the initial investment cost requested of the federal government would be rapidly returned through reduction or elimination of compromised and counterfeit supply.