Analog startup goes old school, gets funding
6/23/2011 12:01 AM EDT
The 'fully depreciated fab myth'
Touchstone owns no fabs and will rely solely on chip foundries for manufacturing (the company has a foundry agreement with TSMC). Most established analog chip companies use older fabs—including in some cases some of the oldest fabs in the semiconductor industry—to produce parts at very mature process technologies. This, they argue, is an advantage because analog parts are not made at the leading edge of process technology and can be built on six-inch wafers using older equipment that is completely depreciated, giving them very low manufacturing costs compared to most digital IC makers.
Fox acknowledged that the depreciated fabs are a boon to older analog IC companies. But while those companies by and large building parts on 150-mm wafers using process technology that is .6 micron and older, Touchstone uses TSMC to build .18-micron devices on 200-mm wafers, he said. This superior die density allows Touchstone to compete very well on a price-per-wafer basis, Fox said.
"Their [manufacturing] costs are very low, but ours are very low, also," Fox said. The playing field has tilted, he said, allowing Touchstone to compete extremely effectively.
"I think if [Maxim Founder] Jack Gifford were around today, he would do it the way we are doing it. There's no sense in buying fabs today," Fox said. Gifford, who was also a co-founder of AMD, died in 2009.