SAN FRANCISCO—The first production semiconductor fabs to use 450-mm wafers are projected to commence operation in 2017, according to Christian Dieseldorff, a senior analyst with the fab tool vendor trade group SEMI's industry research and statistics group.
In a presentation at the Semicon West tradeshow here Monday (July 9), Dieseldorff predicted that three 450-mm fabs would commence operation in 2017. By that time, the total number of IC production fabs will have declined to 441, down from 464 this year, according to Dieseldorf.
Number of fabs beginning operation or in production in 2007 and estimates for 2017.
Several industry development projects are now focused on developing tools for 450-mm wafers, which leading edge chip makers want to transition to in order to increase the number of die per wafer, and thus profitability. Among these projects is the Global 450 Consortium, a $4.8 billion collaboration housed at the Albany NanoTech complex in New York and backed by semiconductor industry heavyweights Intel Corp., IBM Corp., Globalfoundries Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC).
Although the leading chip makers seem bent on moving to 450-mm wafers as quickly as possible, uncertainty remains about when development work will be completed and how many other chip vendors will follow their lead to larger wafers.
At the same event where Dieseldorff spoke Monday, Bob Johnson, research vice president for semiconductor manufacturing at Gartner Inc., said widespread adoption of 450-mm wafers would not occur until 2018 at the earliest, but more likely in 2019 or 2020.
Johnson predicted that the first alpha 450-mm development tools would be available late this year or early next year, with the first production tools not expected until 2016 or 2017. Johnson said there are a lot of predictions within the semiconductor industry about how difficult or easy the transition to 450-mm wafers will be, but that until people begin using 450-mm tools to process wafers, it is not possible to accurately predict how the larger wafers will react to the rigors of semiconductor manufacturing or how smoothly the transition will occur.
"You just don't know these things until you try them," Johnson said.
Johnson said that if the transition to 300-mm wafers in the early 2000s is any guide, chip makers would first construct large 450-mm fab shells but equip them sparsely while they "debugged" the process.
It's all up in the air BUT what is different is that this is a game for far fewer players than it was at 300-mm and that concentrates the expense in relatively few pockets.
Could that make it a transition too far?
@Dylan: the "...the transition to 450-mm wafers is inevitable..." is only true to some, not all. I believe the number will be a small one. Given this, how are the 10 wafer fab equipment suppliers fund that 80 percent of the R&D required to support the transition?
Interesting forecast on the fab demography in 2017...
Thanks MP. I agree with you, and I suspect that Bob Johnson of Gartner would agree also. There will be only a few companies that move to 450. As far as how they will fund it, I suspect that we saw an example of that yesterday, when Intel announced it would take a stake in ASML and provide additional funding for 450-mm and EUV development. This is the way I think it has to be, because the tool vendors themselves are not going to be able to afford all of the R&D on their own.
Not sure that ASML should set the standard for all tool vendors, though I'm sure any vendor will now like to ask for upfront $$ to fund R+D. Regarding 450mm photo development, it seems we're really talking EUV. I believe there are some toolsets like implant that face significant challenges to upsize from 300mm to 450mm, but I would think that this asml example will be the exception, not the rule.
I am with you. I think every tool maker would like to get money up front for 450-mm development. But I am not sure that that many are negotiating from ASML's position of strength in lithography. Sadly, in more competitive equipment markets, bearing the cost of 450-mm development may be table stakes.
What is also interestng is what happens to 300-mm wafer fabs when the leading-edge digital logic and memory ICs are made in a very few 450-mm megafabs.
History teaches that the 300-mm fabs will become the domain of More-than-Moore, trailing-edge digital, 57 varieties of analog, mixed-signal, image sensors, MEMS and so on.
And most 200-mm wafer factories will probably become economically unviable if they are trying to compete with larger 300-mm wafer fabs.
The result will be a complete changing of the order.
And then, talking with the Cymer folks, their EUV teech will be rolling out before 450mm is ready, even on the most optimistic predictions, which could increase yields on 300mm enough to make 450mm unnecessary in the short term.
Fascinating! I guess that's why executives are paid a lot of money, the decisions they have to make can make or break a business.
PS. With all the best prior research and analysis, there is always an element of luck in it.