LONDON – A report prepared for the European Commission just published discusses the potential role of European authorities in encouraging the creation of both a pilot 450-mm wafer fab to support Europe's chip equipment companies and a volume manufacturing 450-mm plant for a wide variety of More-than-Moore processes.
The report, entitled Benefits and measures to set up 450 mm semiconductor prototyping and to keep semiconductor manufacturing in Europe. The role of public authorities and programmes has been prepared between January 2011 and February 2012 by the consultancies Future Horizons Ltd. (Sevenoaks, England) and Decision SA (Paris, France).
The purpose of the study was to identify the activities required to support research and innovation in the field of advanced semiconductor production and measures to support nanoelectronics manufacturing in Europe. The report considered a number of scenarios including one where nothing was done but concluded this would produce a continuous decline in semiconductor production and value creation in European.
The report concludes that with national- and European-level support, a five-year program could be established to create a 450-mm pilot line in Europe to support the transition of the European equipment & material suppliers to 450-mm and coordinate with the US-led G450C initiative in Albany. At the same time there is an opportunity for a jointly-owned 450-mm fab for more-than-Moore circuit production dubbed EuroFab450, to be built, ideally by European IDMs. Such efforts would make more likely and beneficial the location of a 450-mm wafer fab in Europe for leading-edge (More Moore) chip production.
"The 450-mm transition is necessary for industry to keep up with the 10 percent annual growth in wafer fab capacity demand while maintaining the number of fabs under control since a 450-mm fab has 2.25 times the output of a 300-mm fab," said Malcolm Penn, CEO of Future Horizons in a statement. "The 450-mm transition is also expected to deliver a 30 percent cost reduction thus providing to 450-mm wafer fabs a decisive competitive advantage over 300mm."
At the time of the commissioning of the study, there was some skepticism among the industry regarding the 450-mm transition. By the end of the study period the climate had changed with Intel, Samsung and TSMC now committed to roll out 450mm-ready wafer technology in their latest fab plants, quickly joined by Samsung, Global Foundries and IBM to form the G450 Consortium in Albany.
"First hesitant and even reluctant, the equipment and material industry is now asking to be fully associated with the transition and there is a tacit acceptance that any technology and process issues related to the 450-mm development will be solved in due time. It is also highly unlikely there will be parallel development on 300-mm ITRS node development once 450-mm is in full production before the end of the decade," Penn commented.
The report concludes that the 450-mm wafer transition represents an opportunity for Europe to re-energize its manufacturing industry and catch up with other regions in the world. The transition, in any case, will determine the geographic locations for advanced semiconductor production for the next 10 to 15 years. With 8-nm likely to be the first node only available for volume production on 450-mm wafers, post CMOS technologies are set to be exclusively developed on 450-mm platforms.
I'd be interested in learning more about the European semiconductor industry's vision of how a 450-mm volume production fab would operate. Would there need to be a common platform/set of processes established across the major manufacturers in order to share in the benefits of the fab, and if so, are the leading-edge high-volume products produced by the lead European chipmakers like STMicro, Infineon, etc., conducive to that type of model?
Thanks for sending the link Peter. I just read your blog post and I think you're spot on. You bring up a good point that the economics for a larger wafer size for More-than-Moore applications don't make a whole lot of sense. I'll take a further look at the EU report too.
I just wondering which company in Europe will be able to establish a 450mm wafer fab. Looks like there have not been any new fabs built in Europe for the last few years. I can see only Intel and GlobalFoundries that are non European companies building new fabs in Europe (on top of those in Ireland and Dresden). ST, Infineon and NXP are just not capable of that financial burden, and with Europe financial crisis it is even more remote possibility.
Well the idea is that a consortium would build EuroFab450 and away from the leading-edge to keep the cost down.
Much of the cost at 450-mm is likely to be in the very advanced lithography required for leading-edge manufacture.
The shell of the building is nothing. The 450-mm handling will be relatively low volume and high cost to begin with but if you play away from the leading edge offering More-than-Moore process technologies you might be able to get the cost down considerably
How low? $500 million and $1 billion?
I just don't know.
Now the question is whether a consortium of European chip companies, including the likes of X-Fab and Lfoundry and the bigger players, can be persuaded to chip in to a 450-mm fab AND whether they can somehow get a commercial advantage from that enormous wafer size.
It has never been done before. It doesn't look likely. Europe could opt to do nothing.
And then we can look forward to flipping burgers for Chinese tourists visiting places of historical interest in Europe.
We will be flipping burgers if we no longer make (semiconductor or other) products that people want to buy.
Thinking that we will have the products just because we have the fab is absurd. Conversely, if we have the products it doesn't matter where the fab is.
What a EuroFab450 project would do is bring us closer to the flipping-burger point, by drawing attention and funds away from what really matters: building globally competitive private companies.