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Downturn, low support further delay 450mm

Posted: 15 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:450mm? fab tool? R&D?

Despite rumblings about possible delays for the next-generation wafer size, leading fab tool companies still resist to support 450mm technology.

As reported, Intel, TSMC and Samsung are separately pushing for the advent of 450mm "prototype" fabs by 2012. The companies are looking for 450mm "demonstration" tools at 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 sure who will pay for the tools or the R&D.

At SEMI's Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS), there are rumors that 450mm has been pushed out, in which the pilot tools won't be ready until the 15nm node. The recession, coupled by lackluster support from the tool vendors, could be among the reasons for possible delays, some have speculated.

Sematech, which is spearheading the charge for 450mm, claims that fab tool vendors are quietly developing 450mm R&D tools. At a panel during ISS, fab tool executives are still publically reluctant to endorse the technology.

"450mm is an interesting challenge," said Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA-Tencor Corp. "There is no one to pay for it now. The equipment industry has no compelling reason to move to 450mm."

Several years ago, the transition from 200- to 300mm wafers was painful and costly. But at the end of the day, there was a 2.6x benefit in terms of productivity for 300mm.

To be viable, 450mm must also see a 2.6x benefit. But to date, there is no evidence that 450mm will be "as big as a benefit" compared to 300mm, said Steve Newberry, president and CEO of Lam Research Corp.

Others believe 450mm is too expensive and not viable, saying that there are still gains to be made for existing 300mm technology.

"It's time to get more out of the products we have," said Rick Hill, chairman and chief executive of Novellus Systems Inc. "Get off the poppycock. No 450mm. 450mm is dead."

Still, Intel continues to push 450mm. European semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies have come together with chip maker Intel and research group IMEC to form a European 450mm diameter wafer equipment and materials initiative, called EEMI-450.

The group has held a couple of meetings during 2009 and applied for funding under the ENIAC European nanotechnology program and under the European Union Framework Project 7 (FP7) as a so-called coordinated action.

A steering committee for EEMI-405 has been formed with representatives from ASM International, ASML Holding NV, Siltronic AG, Soitec SA, IMEC, Recif Technologies SA, Fraunhofer Institut of Integrated Systems and Device Technology (Fraunhofer-IISB) and two representatives from Intel.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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