Panelist Rutger Wijburg, vice president of front-end operations for NXP Semiconductors BV (Eindhoven, The Nethelands) asked: "450-mm; is it a curse or a blessing?" He suggested that a transition to manufacturing on 450-mm wafer could result in the chip industry collapsing to just three manufacturers, one in microprocessors, one in foundry and one in memory. "That may not be a great step-forward for consumers."
Jean-Marc Chery, chief technology officer of STMicroelectronics, said there are many strategic decisions to be made before considering 450-mm wafers. ST has a research and pilot fab in nearby Crolles, which could be a candidate to run 450-mm wafers at some point. "Today the challenge is the next CMOS platform and do we want to compete in the mobile Internet. If 'yes' then down to 10-nm node 300-mm wafers are competitive. FinFET [fin-shaped transistors] or FDSOI [fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator] is the first challenge. Then the choice of lithography and lithography is half the capex. Before we go to 450-mm we have to answer these fundamental questions."
Chery concluded that there was a risk that if Europe tried to research both 450-mm wafers and the topics that are known as "More than Moore", such as mixed-signal, RF, MEMS, then Europe would fail at both.
And even Jens Drew, director of government relations at Globalfoundries, was cautious. Globalfoundries is one company, along with Intel, who might be seen as a candidate to go to 450-mm wafer manufacturing. "We need to evaluate very closely. Our concern is that the resources will be spread too thin at the equipment companies at 300-mm," he said.
Audience member Leonard Hobbs, head of research for Intel Ireland, asked: "Shouldn't Europe be thinking what it can to try and capture foreign investment in manufacturing?" Nobody on the panel answered the question, which was left hanging as the allotted time for the panel session expired.
Interesting debate...I agree that if there are 3-4 players left after transition to 450-mm wavers Europe is in trouble...Intel will fab processors, Samsung memories, and TSMC/GlobalF the rest...Europe's fabs will all become boutique foundries unless they all pitch-in together and extra billions from European taxpayers somehow...Kris
The move to 450mm wafers is very expensive. For the captial cost to pay off, you have to run a lot of wafers. Only very large companies with deep pockets can do this. That is why the article states that this might cause the industry to collapse to only a few companies. As long as the smaller (12 inch is small?) wafer sizes can still compete on price, there is no worry of a collapse.
I agree with your sentiment Kris. Europe has worried for over a decade than semiconductor manufacturing will leave and only be done in the U.S. and in Asia. Crolles was largely paid for by the French government to keep high tech industry in France. The odds are becoming higher that it will leave Europe if European governments do not provide funding.
Intel has been seeking 450mm wafers for about a decade since its manufacturing is restricted by 300mm wafers. TSMC is also starting to come to the same conclusion as Intel. My own guess is we will see 450mm wafers in the next 5 to 8 years. 300mm wafers frankly would not be competitive compared to 450mm wafers at 40nm technology. The fabs can take a break from Moores Law somewhere below 20nm and gain efficiency and yield advantages with 450mm wafers. This will give lithography development some breathing room. Intel, TSMC, and Samsung will lead the way. It is in their interest to force this shift. Some additional fabs may eventually make the transition as well depending on funding sources.
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