September 14, 2007 – Adding more fuel to an already hot-burning fire, Taiwan foundry giant TSMC is planning to start production using 450mm wafers in 2012, in an effort to stand alongside industry leaders Intel and Samsung in pushing adoption of the new wafer size, according to the Taiwan Economic News.
TSMC director Jon Lin told a panel at SEMICON Taiwan that shifting from 300mm wafer production to 450mm is one of the most efficient measures to boost chipmakers’ productivity, in addition to continuing to shrink the chips produced on 300mm wafers — vs. the position of others, including equipment makers on the panel, that first priority should be optimizing 300mm processes as much as possible. Lin added that 300mm fabs will account for 50% of wafer outputs worldwide by 2012. SEMI president Stanley Myers also was cited noting that Taiwan’s world-leading 300mm capacity is growing steadily, with an expected 59% increase this year and 28% growth projected for 2008.
Skepticism abounds, though, about a 2012 timeline for even pilot runs of 450mm wafers, the paper noted, citing several comments from the panel. Chan Yi-jen, general director of the Electronics and Optronics Research Laboratories under the government-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute, thinks 450mm production won’t happen until 2017, and that 2012 will merely usher in more 3000mm mainstream production. An Applied Materials representative also indicated the company currently has no plans to develop 450mm equipment, and that 300mm processes can still be improved. A Brooks Automation exec also stated that chipmakers should focus on optimizing 300mm processes before moving to 450mm production.
When (or even if) to move to the next wafer size has been a contentious debate for a long time, most recently rehashed at this summer’s SEMICON West, with sharp differences among chipmakers and their suppliers. Even industry group SEMATECH is divided on the issue. Its internal 300mm Prime program launched in 2006 targets reductions of 30% in cost, and 50% in cycle times — but the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI, made up mainly of chipmakers) believes perceived benefits will fall short, and so is launching its own program to pursue availability of 450mm wafers, factory guidelines and standards, and creation of a 450mm factory integration testbed.