Gartner estimates that the total R&D cost of 450-mm tool development will cost about $17 billion cumulatively, about $2 billion of which is being spent this year, Johnson said. He noted that other estimates for the development cost differ widely, from about $10 billion at the low end to as much as $25 billion to $40 billion at the high end.
"We aren't going to know what the [real] numbers are until we start getting some of these tools together and start putting them in production," Johnson said.
Johnson added that he believes the transition to 450-mm wafers is inevitable and predicted that the top 10 wafer fab equipment suppliers would contribute 80 percent of the R&D required to support the transition.
On Monday, Intel Corp. announced it planned to purchase a roughly 15 percent stake in leading lithography tool vendor ASML Holding NV as part of a $4.1 billion equity and R&D funding investment intended to accelerate the development of 450-mm capable tools and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. Also Monday, the Flemish Minister of Innovation, Ingrid Lieten, announced a commitment to invest in the building of clean room facilities for 450-mm diameter wafer processing at the IMEC research institute's pilot wafer fab in Leuven, Belgium.
Dieseldorff said SEMI estimates that total spending on front end chip fabs in 2012—including both fab construction and cost of equipment—will be between $59 billion and $60 billion, roughly flat with 2011. SEMI expects spending on front end fabs to grow 2 percent to 5 percent in 2013 to between $61 billion and $63 billion, he said.
SEMI estimates that total fab equipment spending, including discrete IC fabs, will total about $38.9 billion in 2012, roughly flat with 2011, Dieseldorff said. The trade group estimates that fab equipment spending will increase 20 percent in 2013 to $46.8 billion, he said.
Meanwhile, the estimated amount of spending on fab construction is expected to be slightly more than $6 billion in both 2012 and 2013, down from about $6.25 billion in 2011, Dieseldorff said. He added that the expectations for fab construction investment have increased in recent months with new projects announced by the likes of TSMC, Samsung, United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) and others. "The outlook for construction spending has improved dramatically" from previous estimates of double-digit declines, he said.
Despite pressure on the Japanese semiconductor industry in recent years, Japan continues to have more chip fabs than any other region, Dieseldorff said. By 2017, the total number of chips fabs in Japan is projected to decline to 105, down from 152 in 2007, Dieseldorff said. The number of fabs located in the Americas, which has the second highest number of fabs of all regions, is forecast to fall to 95 in 2017, down from 123 in 2007, he said.