SAN JOSE, Calif. - Is Intel Corp. preparing for the 450-mm era in its new R&D fab in Oregon?
One analyst thinks so, but he also questions if 450-mm is ready for prime time. As reported, Intel recently confirmed speculation that it will build a new R&D wafer fab in Hillsboro, Ore., and upgrade other existing U.S. facilities for 22-nm production at a total investment of between $6 billion and $8 billion.
The investment will create 800 to 1,000 permanent high-tech jobs and 6,000 to 8,000 construction jobs, Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.) said. The new development fab in Oregon, to be known as D1X, is slated for R&D startup in 2013.
''So what do make of this? We offer two key takeaways and then walk through some additional thoughts on 450-mm, as D1X is likely to be 450-mm capable,''said C.J. Muse, an analyst with Barclays Capital, in a report.
''With respect to Intel’s D1X, our checks reveal that it would likely be 450-mm ready (again, 450-mm READY), but not yet 450-mm capable,'' Muse said. ''What does that mean? It means that it would be facilitized with taller ceilings, enhanced clean room capability (capable of pumping out a larger volume and filling it with particle free air), and with pedestals able to support and contain any vibration from bigger and heavier tools. The point being - this does not mean 450-mm is ready for prime time, rather Intel is maximizing optionality.''
Still, is 450-mm ready? No, said Muse. ''We believe 450-mm is going to happen, but is likely to involve funding from chip companies. Equipment companies will not foot the bill alone this time. And it is not ready for prime time, in our view. Not at all, our checks suggest unequivocally,'' he said.
According to Muse-and Sematech-there is much work to be done in 450-mm. Chip-consorium Sematech is leading the charge in 450-mm, it was noted.
According to Muse, here's what ready for 450-mm: 1. requirement guidelines; 2. early design; 3. early prototypes; 4. interoperability test bed; 5. mechanical wafer bank; 6. technology intercept node defined; 7. single crystal wafer bank; and 8. equipment performance metrics.
Here's what is not done: 9. metrology and process equipment development; 10. equipment prototypes; 11. equipment demos; and 12. actual equipment readiness.
Plus, many equipment vendors are reluctant to devise 450-mm gear, because it is too expensive and there is no return. Only a handful of chip makers will build 450-mm fabs. Intel, TSMC and Samsung are the few that are pushing for 450-mm now.
Cost is the big issue. ''In addition, work at ISMI Sematech suggests, for beam tools like litho, implant and metrology, the throughput is a function of the area the beam can scan in an hour, the multiplier from 300-mm to 450-mm is not 2.25+ (2.25 + some additional gain due to edge gains, i.e., more dies can be squeezed in) but just 1.24 on average and actually just 1.18 for litho,'' Muse said.
''Also, during the same time, the litho industry faces the challenge of making EUV lithography work and overall the semiconductor faces obstacles like a new gate structure, new materials. So, just yet, we believe it is difficult to see 450-mm happening,'' he added.