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Tech firms deliberate shift to 450mm

Posted: 19 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fab future? 450mm plant? 2226 process node?

Panelists at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) agreed to disagree about the future of fabs, including the shift towards 450mm plants, which could cost a staggering $10 billion if or when these giant facilities get built.

The panelists also warned that Moore's Law could slow down after the 22nm node as device physics is nearing the wall.

"Is the technology node progression slowing down? Not yet, but it soon will be," said Craig Sander, VP of process R&D at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and the company's foundry spin-off, The Foundry Co. At 22nm, "we are hitting the physical limits (of scaling). After that, things will slow down."

The IEDM panel topic centered on "The Future of Fabs." As expected, 450mm fabs were among the topics at the panel. As reported, Intel Corp., Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd are separately pushing for the advent of 450mm "prototype" fabs by 2012. Some believe that 450mm fabs will not appear for another decade. Others believe 450mm fabs will never happen, saying the R&D costs are too expensive.

450mm era?
During the panel, John Lin, director of the manufacturing technology center at TSMC, provided one of the first glimpses of the cost structure for a 450mm fab.

In a presentation, Lin said a 450mm fab could cost over $10 billion. In comparison, a leading-edge 300mm fab for the 45nm node runs about $4 billion.

To make 450mm fabs a reality, it "requires industry collaboration" between chip and equipment makers, said Devadas Pillai, Intel fellow and director of operational decision support technology in the Logic Technology Development group at the chip giant.

The representatives from TSMC and Intel declined to comment when 450mm fabs would appear. But not surprisingly, the fab-tool community and others on the panel were lukewarm about 450mm.

Masayuki Tomoyasu, senior VP and chief engineer at Tokyo Electron Ltd, said the cost and risk are too high for 450mm fabs. Many in the industry propose the so-called 300mm Prime program, which aims to boost efficiency in current 300mm fabs.

Bill Arnold, chief scientist for ASML Holding NV, said overall throughput could take a hit within 450mm fabs. On a slide, he demonstrated that lithography throughout would be half or less for 450mm, as compared to current tools running in today's 300mm fabs.

There is another huge problem: It is still unclear where the R&D dollars will come from to develop 450mm tools, said Hans Stork, chief technology officer at Applied Materials Inc.

"450mm will increase development costs," said AMD's Sander. In fact, overall process development costs are increasing 1.4 times per node, leaving fewer and fewer players that can afford to build fabs, Sander said.

On a positive note, "innovation will not slow down," he said.

Innovation will be required if IC scaling slows. The panelist listed various technologies that could be deployed in the event of a slowdown in scaling. Those include 3D-based thru-silicon vias, carbon nanotubes, FinFETs and related structures. On the memory side, there are 4bit-per-cell NAND, cross-point memories, among others.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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