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What's behind TSMC's 450mm move?

Posted: 11 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:450mm? 20nm node? pilot line?

At the TSMC 2011 Technology Symposium, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd shed more light on its foray into the 450mm space.

As reported, TSMC is moving full speed ahead into the 450mm fab era. The move is intended to reduce production costs and keep the company one step ahead of its rivals, such as Globalfoundries, Samsung, UMC and others.

There is another motivation for TSMC's move into 450mm. In the 450mm era, the company will require "fewer engineers" over time, thereby reducing costs, said Shang-Yi Chiang, senior vice president of R&D at TSMC.

In fact, TSMC will need 7,000 fewer engineers over a 10-year period when it enters into the 450mm era, Chiang told EE Times.

There are two factors at play in 450mm. First, TSMC believes it will become more and more difficult to attract "good engineers" over time, he said. Second, TSMC will ultimately require fewer 450mm fabs to meet customer demand in the future. The next-generation wafer size is projected to boost overall chip productivity by 1.8 times or more, as compared to 300mm.

Fewer fabs equates to less engineers. On the other hand, TSMC is expected to increase its R&D and capital spending, especially as it continues to march down the process technology curve. 450mm fabs, for example, will run $10 billion or so, and tool costs are expected to soar in the 450mm era.

As expected, TSMC's intercept point for 450mm fabs will be at the 20nm node, according to Chiang. Initially, TSMC hopes to install a 450mm pilot line in Fab 12 in Hsinchu, Taiwan. The line will process wafers at the 20nm node. It hopes to get the pilot line up and running by 2013 to 2014.

At that time, TSMC's 300mm fabs will also process wafers based on 20nm technology. Most of TSMC's initial 20nm output will center around its 300mm fabs, he said.

Then, TSMC plans to bring up its first 450mm production fab (Fab 15) in Taichung, Taiwan. Production is slated for 2015 to 2016.

Initially, that 450mm fab may ramp up 20nm wafer production, with plans to move to 14nm. At 14nm, TSMC plans to make a switch in transistor structures, as well as make the switch from bulk CMOS to FinFET structures, he said.

At the 20nm node and above, TSMC will continue to use traditional planar transistors based on bulk CMOS.

The company plans to produce 14nm FinFETs in Fab 15 in the future.

- Mark LaPedus
??EE Times

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