By Dr. Robert N. Castellano, The Information Network
NEW TRIPOLI, USA: We see four camps strategically focused on the debate for the semiconductor industry to move from 300mm wafers to 450mm wafers.
Camp 1 - Sematech, which is spearheading the charge for 450mm. Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (Sematech) is an association of member companies cooperating precompetitively in key areas of semiconductor technology whose members make up 50 percent of the worldwide chip market.
Members are Intel, IBM, Micron, Hewlett-Packard, National Semiconductor, Globalfoundries, NEC, Samsung, Renesas, Toshiba, Infoneon, UMC, and TSMC.
Sematech is targeting 450-mm ''demonstration'' tools for the 32-nm node and ''pilot tools'' at 22-nm.
Camp 2 - EEMI-450, which is pushing for 450mm development in Europe. The objective of the ENIAC EEMI-450 and CASA-450 programs is "to improve the competitiveness of the European semiconductor equipment and materials industry and therefore increase the chances to be selected by the tier 1 semiconductor companies in their future 450-mm operations," according to a presentation from Bas Van Nooten, director of European cooperative programs for ASM International NV (Almere, The Netherlands), who has been acting as a spokesman for EEMI-450.
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.
Camp 3 – Large non-European semiconductor equipment manufacturers, including Applied, Novellus, Lam, TEL and others, have publicly slammed the idea of the 450-mm wafer transition.
Camp 4 – SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International), a consortium of worldwide equipment and materials manufacturers who is sitting on the sidelines (to be fair, the SEMI M74 standard relates to wafer transport and handling for IC manufacturing and is intended to support R&D for design investigation of wafer carriers, load ports, AMHS, and robotics for early 450mm equipment development).
The Information Network is aligned with Camp 3, against the deployment of 450mm wafers. Manufacturing with larger wafers helps increase the ability to produce semiconductors at a lower cost. The total silicon surface area of a 450mm wafer and the number of printed die (individual computer chips, for example) is more than twice that of a 300mm wafer.
A chipmaker therefore only has to purchase half the number of wafers and equipment to produce the same number of chips on a 450mm wafer than on a 300mm wafer. No wonder the leading equipment manufacturers are against it. Migration to 450mm will probably decimate the small and mid-sized equipment manufacturers, who: (1) can’t afford the development costs for 450mm, and (2) will lose half its sales.
Why do we say saying this? Look at the chart below. Production of semiconductors on 300mm wafers started in 1998 but it didn’t really take off until 2002 at which time 300mm wafers comprised 2.2 percent of all wafers used. The 300mm wafers now represent more than 25 percent of wafers being manufactured and 49 percent in terms of square inches of silicon.Prior to 2002, semiconductor and equipment revenues tracked. After 2002, semiconductor revenues have continued to diverge from equipment revenues, and the ratio of equipment to semiconductor revenues is at an all time low.
We attribute this divergence largely to the impact of 300mm wafers.