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Sematech fab opens its arms to non-members

Posted: 24 Sep 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:sematech? 4-inch wafer? semiconductor?

International Sematech has re-engineered itself in significant ways over the past two years while sticking to its core mission of furthering the manufacturing skills of its members.

Sematech's fab has been spun out as a subsidiary, the advanced technology development facility (ATDF), which is making itself available to researchers outside of Sematech's nine member companies. For example, ATDF is working with university researchers who collaborate and receive support from the chip manufacturers.

Many of the larger engineering schools already have prototype fabrication lines that might have the ability to process 4-inch wafers, using custom production equipment. The ATDF is a different animal, with a typical monthly run rate of about 10,000 wafers and a modern tool set, said David Lewis, technology director at the facility. This combination of companies with financial resources and the need to advance their road maps, university researchers who seek commercial backing for their projects, and Sematech's fab is an important element in the U.S. semiconductor research landscape.

Jurgen Wohl, ATDF's director, was assigned by Infineon to Sematech (he now is independent of Infineon, a necessary condition to working with companies on a confidential basis).

MuGFETs, a generic term that includes variety of multiple-gate field-effect transistors, such as FinFETs and trigate devices, are good examples. For the past year or more, the ATDF has been working with a major semiconductor vendor and university-based researchers on a MuGFET project, using 45-nano-meter design rules. HPL Technologies developed a test chip to support the reticle design, which involved topologies not seen with planar devices.

Wohl said that ATDF's policy is not to retain IP generated during the collaborations. "This is all confidential information. We help them develop the IP; it's their stuff," he said, explaining why he could not detail the manufacturing issues related to MuGFETs.

Another thrust for ATDF is to process test wafers for tool suppliers. Sematech has been doing some of this already as part of its mandate to advance the manufacturing capabilities of its members. Lewis estimates that about 25 percent of all the test wafers processed by the equipment industry are done at the Austin fab.

With the trend toward R&D outsourcing showing no signs of abating, success will depend in part on how many innovative research projects are generated within universities that can attract funding from the commercial semiconductor vendors.

- David Lammers

EE Times

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