Niche chip maker SkyWater plays key role in U.S. supply strategy

While U.S. presidents often seek to boost the nation’s infrastructure, such as highways, roads and bridges, President Joe Biden held a cutting-edge example in his hand.

President Joe Biden holds up a silicon wafer as he participates virtually in the CEO Summit on Semiconductor and Supply Chain Resilience in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on April 12, 2021, in Washington. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)

In an online meeting from the White House in April with CEOs of semiconductor companies, Biden held up an iridescent disk and said, “Chips, like the one I have here, this is infrastructure.”

The CEOs participating in the meeting represented such major companies as Google, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s largest semiconductor foundry. But the wafer that Biden held up was manufactured by SkyWater Technology Inc., based in Bloomington, Minnesota. Thomas Sonderman, 58, SkyWater’s president and CEO, said of that moment, “It was a great honor and a sense of pride for all SkyWater employees.”

Sonderman participated in the online summit from his office here and reflected on that meeting in an interview in late May with The Asahi Shimbun. SkyWater was a unique presence at the summit because it only has about 600 employees and its sales are less than 1 percent of Intel’s.

“Globalization is here,” Sonderman said. “We are a global society and we need to recognize that, but there’s certain critical infrastructure that nations need to pay attention to.”

SkyWater is a major wafer fabrication facility, known commonly as a wafer fab, that supplies the U.S. military, among others. More importantly, it is the only U.S. investor-owned and U.S.-based fab.

Read the story in The Asahi Shimbun: Niche chip maker SkyWater plays key role in U.S. supply strategy.

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