Last week, I was reading a press release on iSuppli’s website titled, And Then There Were Three: Ranks of Leading-Edge Chip Foundries Dwindle and I got to thinking, if only 3 major foundries (TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung) are going to be able to handle the cost of high volume, leading-edge  semiconductor process technologies at the 22- to 20-nanometer (nm) level by the end of 2011, what are all those other companies going to do?

It’s interesting, because one might infer simply by reading this that all the other companies that can still handle 38nm and above, will slip into not-so-leading edge categories and either be acquired by the Big Three, or close up shop altogether. As Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst of semiconductor manufacturing at IHS. stated so succinctly in the release, “The enormous cost of advanced semiconductor process technology is whittling down the ranks of leading-edge foundries, with just three firms likely to remain at the end of the year,” said “Unless additional foundries join the party, semiconductor companies will face minimal competitive choices when it comes to advanced chip geometries.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard people predict the demise of all but a handful of foundries and IDMS. But correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t there another side to this story? Perhaps it’s the others who will see the cost benefits of 3D integration to remain competitive in the market. Maybe as the list of those companies taking on advanced processes whittles down, those taking up 3D TSV processes will grow, and thus the industry will thrive. Why else would TSMC, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and others also be planning for 3D TSV processes? They want to cover all their bases, right? I’m just saying…. Anyone else think this way? — F.v.T.

Francoise von Trapp

They call me the “Queen of 3D” because I have been following the course of…

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