SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- While IC technology is expected to accelerate over the next several years, the shift to 450-mm wafers in chip manufacturing is not projected to take place until 2013--which is much later than some had predicted.
Two years ago, an executive from International Sematech predicted that chip makers would move from 300- to 450-mm wafers in IC production sometime in the 2008 timeframe.
Now, it appears that the shift for "high-volume" chip projection based on 450-mm (18-inch) diameter wafers will take place in 2013, according to the new 2001 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).
However, the roadmap is consistent with a previous target date set by the ITRS. In the 1999 ITRS roadmap, the shift to 450-mm silicon substrates was predicted to move into "pilot projection" in the 2009-2010 timeframe, with the "volume production" ramp slated to begin between 2012 and 2014.
Industry analysts believe the 450-mm transition has been pushed out to the end of the ITRS roadmap for good reason. The current transition from 200-mm (8-inch) to 300-mm (12-inch) wafers has been slower and more painful than expected, according to analysts.
In the late-1990s, several chip makers were scrambling to build 300-mm fabs in a move to reduce their manufacturing costs. And chip-equipment vendors followed suit by pouring billions of dollars into the development of new 300-mm tools.
But the 300-mm transition has not gone as planned. A couple of industry downturns (in 1998 and 2001) coupled with aggressive die shrinks have caused most IC manufacturers to delay their 300-mm wafer fab projects, leaving equipment vendors in limbo. Many chip-equipment vendors developed their initial 300-mm tools in the late-1990s, but the order rates have been disappointing, at best.
And the situation looks bleak--at least for equipment vendors. Only a handful of chip makers are in pilot production with 300-mm wafers right now. Several chip manufacturers, including Intel Corp., are slowly moving their 300-mm fabs into production.
Hopefully, the chip industry can avoid past mistakes, according to the roadmap. "The conversion to 450-mm wafers is projected to occur in high volumes around 2013," according to the new ITRS roadmap.
"The timing is 12 years beyond the 300-mm conversion and allows three years of lessons learned to occur after the transition from bulk CMOS, which should reduce overall risk," according to the roadmap. "It also affords time to understand whether 450-mm can be a simple scale up of 300-mm or if more fundamental changes to manufacturing must occur," said the 2001 roadmap, which was formally released to chip makers this week in San Jose (see Nov. 29 story).