SAN FRANCISCO -- A hastily organized summit of executives from semiconductor makers and their capital-equipment suppliers is being planned here this week to help revive momentum behind the industry's troubled transition to 300-millimeter wafers, Semiconductor Business News has learned.
Reports of the closed-door meeting and news that Applied Materials has greatly reduced its involvement in joint demonstrations of 300-mm production systems at Sematech appear in SBN's July 15 issue.
Other equipment makers are also reducing their 300-mm R&D because they see no demand for systems after chip makers began delaying their pilot lines, which were originally slated to be set up next year.
Some industry managers and analysts said they believe the summit meeting is an attempt on Sematech's part to head off a crisis in the 300-mm movement, which appears to be nearly stalled. A spokesman for Sematech, in Austin, Texas, said the meeting is being organized by the consortium's international arm to improve communications between device makers and equipment suppliers.
"We do not anticipate any announcements as a result of this meeting," said the Sematech spokesman. The meeting, which was still being organized last week, will be held while semiconductor equipment and material suppliers show their wares during the Semicon West 98 trade show here in San Francisco.
In the past several month, Sematech's International 300-mm Initiative (I300) has seen a dramatic slowdown of tools available for its tests and demonstrations. During the Third Annual 300-mm Symposium in Santa Clara, Calif., last month, I300I officials said only half of the needed tool set for 300-mm wafer processing had been tested by the program and nearly no new systems are expected to be available this summer.
Some of Sematech's member companies have set a goal to begin ordering 300-mm fab systems in the second half of 1999, if full tool sets are ready by the middle of next year. That prospect now looks unlikely, according to industry managers and analysts. Equipment suppliers have spent more than $4 billion developing 300-mm technology, and many are now worried it will be several years before any sales are made.
Next week's summit is an attempt to restore harmony between chip makers and fab-equipment suppliers, which have begun blaming each other for delays. Both industry segments are suffering during the current business slump, said analyst G. Dan Hutcheson, president of VLSI Research, in San Jose, Calif.