Thomas Sonderman, president, SkyWater Technology Foundry

Thomas Sonderman, recently named president of Bloomington-based SkyWater Technology Foundry, is leading the semiconductor maker's transformation into an independent manufacturer.

Sonderman brings extensive industry operations and management experience to SkyWater, which offers both advanced development capabilities and volume production and has about 400 employees.

SkyWater was founded in March when Oxbow Industries, a Minneapolis-based private equity firm, closed on the purchase of Cypress Semiconductor Corp.'s semiconductor wafer fabrication facility.

SkyWater, operating as a stand-alone company, continues producing wafers for Cypress while pursuing new business.

Sonderman led the transition of AMD's semiconductor manufacturing operations into an independent business as vice president of manufacturing for Globalfoundries, spun off in 2009.

SkyWater is the most advanced independent semiconductor foundry, or contract manufacturer, that is U.S.-based and owned and accredited by the Defense Microelectronics Activity office, Sonderman said. Its wafers are used in industrial, automotive, medical device, consumer and government applications. "We have technology that is available not only for military applications but for commercial applications as well," he said.

Sonderman joined SkyWater from Rudolph Technologies' integrated solutions group, where he was group vice president and general manager. Sonderman, who holds 47 patents, serves on the executive board of the American Society of Semiconductor Manufacturing.

Q: What brought you to SkyWater?

A: I have a natural affinity for the manufacturing side of the business. And the fact that it was a spinoff from a larger company was a similar scenario to when I was with AMD. … It's rare that you get a chance to run a manufacturing operation because we don't have a lot of U.S.-based foundries.

Q: What are your priorities for the company?

A: One is design enablement, which is the ability to take our manufacturing technology and enable it in a customer's design. The second is operational excellence. The third element is end-to-end sales and marketing.

Q: How is your industry experience benefiting you at SkyWater?

A: I spent a lot of years at AMD and Globalfoundries but before joining SkyWater I spent four years running a big business at Rudolph Technologies, which also has an operation in Bloomington. I learned a lot about the business side. ... That's what created a unique combination for me to be able to take on this role at SkyWater.

Todd Nelson