SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Despite the IC downturn, International Sematech insists that it is continuing to make progress on 450-mm tool technology, by announcing several new efforts in the arena.
In a presentation on Tuesday (June 30), the chip-making consortium said it is moving towards a ''virtual processing'' model in the arena, in which 450-mm R&D will take place within Sematech and other sites worldwide.
As part of the effort, the group has shipped 450-mm silicon wafers for R&D purposes, ordered various metrology tools and advanced its factory automation efforts.
On the standards front, Sematech (Albany, N.Y.) has also devised fab tool performance metrics for 450-mm, revised the ''pitch'' tool standard from 10- to 12-mm, and targeted a specific node for 450-mm machines.
As expected, the group is targeting 450-mm ''demonstration'' tools for the 32-nm node and ''pilot tools'' at 22-nm.
As reported, Intel, TSMC and Samsung are separately pushing for the advent of 450-mm ''prototype'' fabs by 2012. Some believe 450-mm fabs will never happen, saying the R&D costs are too expensive.
Sematech is spearheading the 450-mm effort. The chip-making consortium has devised a 450-mm ''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 450-mm development work, especially in fab automation, continues at the ''test bed'' within the SVTC. To some degree, Sematech will be processing 450-mm wafers within the facility by the third quarter of 2009, said Tom Jefferson, 450-mm program manager at Sematech.
At present, though, there is still no CVD, etch, lithography and other critical gear for 450-mm 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 450-mm test wafers to various sites and vendors worldwide for processing.
Still to be seen, however, is who will pay for the 450-mm R&D. A 450-mm fab is expected to cost $10 billion, some estimated. Scott Kramer, vice president of manufacturing at International 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.