When the semiconductor industry began the transition from 200-mm wafers to 300-mm wafers more than a decade ago, chip makers convinced tool suppliers to foot the bill for the R&D required to make the move with the promise that they would be justly and richly rewarded with robust sales of the new systems, which much of the industry appeared anxious to adopt. But they were left holding the bag when the dot come bubble burst and—surprise—chip makers decided to delay deployment of 300-mm capacity.
Many equipment industry executives were understandably bitter about this. This was in large part the reason that, when chip makers first began making noise about moving to 450-mm wafers a few years ago, the sound you heard was mostly echos and crickets chirping.
A lot of people were skeptical right from the beginning that 450-mm would happen at all. Now it appears that 450-mm is inevitable, though the conventional wisdom holds that only a handful of chip makers—notably Intel Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) and Globalfoundries Inc.—will ever build 450-mm manufacturing lines.
Still, right from the start, there has been much debate about how tool suppliers and their customers would divvy up the R&D costs associated with moving to the new wafer size. (Bob Johnson of Gartner Inc. said this week that the cumulative cost of 450-mm development will be about $17 billion, about $2 billion of which is being spent this year, though he acknowledged that other estimates vary widely).
Some fledgling development efforts are now well underway, including the Global 450 Consortium, a $4.8 billion collaborative effort housed at the Albany NanoTech Complex and backed by the companies mentioned above, as well as IBM Corp.
For some tool makers, though, this was not enough. ASML Holding NV, the dominant player in lithography equipment, was largely seen dragging its feet on 450-mm. Moving to 450-mm will require new lithography equipment with more advanced stages that can support the increased size and weight without creating vibrations that would make accurate lithography exposure impossible. Given the fact that no more than a handful of chip makers are expected to buy the new tools, ASML foresaw a limited return on the considerable investment that would be required.
ASML of course has now come around, but only after the firm devised an innovative equity-plus-research funding scheme that asks those chip makers with the most to gain from the move to 450-mm wafers—and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography that matter—to foot some of the bill for new technology up front.
On Monday, Intel announced it would acquire a 15 percent stake in ASML as part of a $4.1 billion deal to accelerate the development of 450-mm and EUV lithography. In addition to paying over $3 billion for the stake in ASML, Intel is also contributing more than $1 billion more directly to the development of the new technologies. Intel, of course, also committed to advanced purchase orders for 450-mm and EUV development and production tools.
Interesting that ASML went public on Intel while telling analysts that Samsung and TSMC have 45 days to get in on the deal at the same price.
The argument runs that ASML was obliged to go public once it had signed the deal with Intel.
But I have known public companies keep secrets while they dot the tees and cross the eyes.
Could ASML be trying a touch of high-pressure salespersonship?
Will it rebound the benefit of Nikon?
It seems to me that there is little doubt that ASML went public with this deal because a) it's a big boost for both 450 and EUV (not to mention a vote of confidence for EUV) and b) to put the heat on TSMC and Saumsun. As you say, it would be no big deal for ASML to keep at least part of this plan a secret. But ASML wants the world to know that Samsung and TSMC have a shot to get involved too.
Could this be a boost for Nikon? I think if Nikon has the ability to match ASML in either of this technologies, now is its golden opportunity to turn the tides and level the playing feel. But I don't think Nikon can do that at this point.
Ask Intel to publish their 450 mm economic analysis.
From SEMIcon show floor Intel has no reason to taper into ASML; they are already a Tier #1 customer. So what are Intel's reasons in this 450 mm development investment? Access, design input, custom configuration, leap frog, allocation, first dibs? Even ASML is still trying to figure out the real Intel reasons.
Intel's costs are rising because their current 300 mm fabrication is inefficient where 1/3 of production volume is priced below cost. Every Intel production generation regardless of process and equipoment generation demonstrates this continuous fact.
450 mm fabrication is not going to change this because Intel's monopoly business model requires this inefficiency to pay for a) the exponential capital requirment of Rocks Law to pay for Moores Axiom, b)to continue a business strategy which gives processors for all types of clients away in order to drive Xeon at a monopoly profit deeper into data center.
450 mm fabrication aim continues Intel myth masking aim; to command, control and consolidate whatever remains in the end. Obviously Intel will end up owning ASML. A healthy industy is a broad and diversified industry. An industry driven by natural time on organic demand drivers not Intel time and extra economic costs.
I have mixed feelings about this strategy. In most respects I guess it was somewhat inevitable that even ASML would want/need help with 450 mm and EUV litho, but is it one step too many down the road of industry consolidation? Are Intel, Samsung, and to a lesser extent TSMC going to be "too big to fail" at some point if they they start taking equity positions in equipment companies? Are AMAT, TEL, and other equipment companies going to follow ASMLs lead? Where does it all end?
This equity plus research funding is an interesting strategy. When your customer list is so short and development costs are so high, it makes a lot sense for both ASML and Intel. Should Samsung and TSMC join the party? That's a tougher call, now that Intel is in with both feet.
this is a desperate move by intel.
I bet the windows 8 news drive it crazy. it commands maybe 1% tablet market now, and imagine
2-3 year later 50% desktop will be intel nonrelated, with it's cost structure it's doomed.
the proliferation of 28-40nm at foundrys is making all these possible.
intel is trying to command some advantage as it used to have by doing this, oh well, this time it might not work, it just smells like kodak.
EUV is part of the deal. But phase one is 450. I think that is what Intel wants more. Intel's Yan Borodovsky spoke today about using complementary lithography, including 193 immersion, DSA and perhaps other technologies. But I think Intel is just trying to cover its bases. Intel still wants EUV badly. But it seems to me that the jury is still out on EUV's economic viability.