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Sematech installs tools in 450mm prototype fab

Posted: 27 Oct 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:450mm? fab? IC equipment? fab tool?

Pushing the migration to 450mm prototype fabs by 2012, International Sematech has moved into the "test wafer generation" stage and installed the first tools in its 450mm prototype clean room, including metrology and wet-clean systems.

During a presentation, the consortium it also outlined the preliminary specifications for a future 450mm fab and revised its controversial concept of a "platform tool" for use in making chips in the arena.

A 450mm platform tool would consist of three (or so) process chambers within a possible industry-standard chassis. The industry is expected to devise the platform guidelines by year's end, said Tom Jefferson, 450mm program manager for Sematech.

Sematech is spearheading the 450mm effort. As reported, Intel, TSMC and Samsung are separately pushing for the advent of 450mm "prototype" fabs by 2012.

Sematech is targeting 450mm "demonstration" tools for the 32nm node and "pilot tools" at 22nm. Some believe 450mm fabs will never happen, saying the R&D costs are too expensive. No one is quite sure who will pay for the tools or the R&D.

In an interview after the presentation, Jefferson said he believes the industry can meet its target to devise prototype 450mm fabs by 2012. "Why not? We think it's possible," he said. "We've got three-plus years to go."

One of the stumbling blocks is the equipment makers, many of which are resisting the move to 450mm fabs. "Suppliers are working (on 450mm)," he said. "Some are more public than others. The fundamental question is: Who is going to pay for this?"

The Sematech manager, who is on assignment from Intel Corp., believes that 450mm R&D will be paid for by a combination of both chip and equipment makers.

Still, the big question is clear: Are the equipment companies on board? The big players, including Applied, Novellus, Lam, TEL and others, have publicly slammed the idea of the 450mm wafer transition. Most argue that the industry still can improve the efficiency of existing 300mm fabs.

Most believe the 450mm proponentsIntel, Samsung and TSMCwill push the tool makers towards the next-generation wafer size. Tool makers may have no choice: Intel, Samsung and TSMC represent a major percentage of the capital equipment buyers in the market.

"The equipment makers are less contentious than they were last year," said Scott Kramer, VP of manufacturing at International Sematech.


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