Tom Abate, writing in today's San Francisco Chronicle, offers general readers a tutorial on manufacturing outsourcing in our industry. It's nothing we haven't lived in the semiconductor inudstry for the past 10-15 years.
But Abate only scratched the surface when he wrote of the challenges to the industry (and the country) of a continued push overseas to manufacture and design devices. He pulled a great quote from TSMC's Chuck Byers:
"I never thought I would be in an industry that depends on the whims and wishes of a 14-year-old. But here we are."
Indeed. The emerging issue, really, is design-for-14-year-old. It's whimsical, short-lived and really, really low-cost. And our industry is not even close to being positioned to deal with it. Until today, the paradigm was we'd figure out the technology and tell the world how to use it. That's flipped on its head. Now, it's "we know what the technology can do, more or or less, now you give us what we want when we want it."
That's a tricky tune to hum when a fab is $3 billion, and the processes leading up to manufacturing are so rooted in the 1980s.
Our man Bill Schweber, writing in this week's EE Times opinion page, says it's time to rescale the PC fab.
But what about radically rethinking the problem of huge fabs? Suppose we set a challenge, perhaps similar to the Kremer or Antari X aviation prizes, and get some student teams to build a practical desktop fab? By setting some reasonable constraints, it might be doable. Once you redefine the objective and change the ground rules, then radical new ideas may emerge.
It's an idea whose time has come. The full Schweber piece is at www.eetimes.com/print (registration needed).