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Sematech continues 450mm campaign

Posted: 06 Jul 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:450mm? foundry? fab-tool?

Despite the current downturn, International Sematech claims it continues to make progress on 450mm tool technology by announcing several new efforts in the arena.

In a presentation, the chip-making consortium said it is moving towards a "virtual processing" model in the arena, in which 450mm R&D will take place within Sematech and other sites worldwide.

As part of the effort, the group has shipped 450mm silicon wafers for R&D purposes, ordered various metrology tools and advanced its factory automation efforts.

On the standards front, Sematech has also devised fab tool performance metrics for 450mm, revised the "pitch" tool standard from 10- to 12mm, and targeted a specific node for 450mm machines. As expected, the group is targeting 450mm "demonstration" tools for the 32nm node and "pilot tools" at 22nm.

As reported, Intel, TSMC and Samsung are separately pushing for the advent of 450mm "prototype" fabs by 2012. Some believe 450mm fabs will never happen, saying the R&D costs are too expensive.

Sematech is spearheading the 450mm effort. The chip-making consortium has devised a 450mm "test bed" in Austin, Texas. The "test bed" is located within an R&D fab once owned by Sematech. That facility was recently acquired by SVTC Technologies Inc., an R&D foundry.

Much of the 450mm development work, especially in fab automation, continues at the "test bed" within the SVTC. To some degree, Sematech will be processing 450mm wafers within the facility by Q3 09, said Tom Jefferson, 450mm program manager at Sematech.

At present, though, there is still no CVD, etch, lithography and other critical gear for 450mm processing. Sematech claims to be "actively engaged" with fab tool vendors in those segments.

Since the SVTC facility does not have many of the critical tools, Sematech is moving towards what it called a "virtual processing" model. The chip-making consortium will ship 450mm test wafers to various sites and vendors worldwide for processing.

Still to be seen, however, is who will pay for the 450mm R&D. A 450mm fab is expected to cost $10 billion, some estimated. Scott Kramer, VP of manufacturing at Sematech, said R&D costs will be spread out among the member companies in the consortium, equipment suppliers and material makers. Kramer also dropped hints about a "public" entity, but he did not elaborate.

Setting standards
The subject of 450mm technology remains a hot button in the industry. Several years ago, Sematech unveiled two next-generation fab programs: 300mmPrime and the International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative's ISMI 450mm effort.

There is widespread support among the fab-tool community for 300mmPrime, which looks to boost the efficiency of existing 300mm fabs, thereby pushing out the need for 450mm plants.

The newer, more controversial ISMI 450mm program, calls for some chipmakers to make a more direct transition from 300mm to the larger 450mm wafer size.

In some cases, Sematech's unveiling of the controversial plan to hasten the industry's move to 450mm wafers has driven a wedge between the semiconductor equipment community and some chipmakers, rekindling the debate over who will fund the development of next-generation fab toolsor whether the shift should in fact proceed at all.

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