Facilities

Semiconductor manufacturing facilities or wafer “fabs” are huge affairs costing billions of dollars. Most of the action takes place in the cleanroom which houses the manufacturing equipment, such as lithography, chemical vapor deposition, etch, ion implant, photoresist track systems, sputtering, annealing tools and many others. Large fabs have upward of 600 different tools, often multiple tools fo the same type to meet overall throughput targets (tens of thousands of wafers per month for large fabs).

In 2015, Samsung announced what is said to be the world’s most expensive semiconductor fabrication plant, at over $14 billion. The new plant will be finished in 2017, according to Samsung, and is reported to almost as big–at 31 million square feet plant–as Samsung’s next two biggest fabs put together at Giheung and Hwaseong South Korea. The new plant is reported to employ about 150,000 people and to produce about $40 billion dollars per year in chip revenue
Wafers are typically transported through the fab with an automated rail system (although hand transportation and loading is not uncommon). Most fabs transport the wafers in a FOUP (front opening unified pod), which is essentially an expensive plastic box.

Fabs require an intricate infrastructure to supply chemicals, materials and gases to the process tool. Air handlers, ionization systems and HEPA filters are used to clean the air in the cleanroom. Support equipment, such as vacuum pumps and gas abatement tools (used to remove process byproducts before the air is released into the atmosphere, for example) are typically housed in a sub-floor beneath the tools.

Fabs also require sophisticated MES (Manufacturing Execution Software) systems to keep track of the “recipes” for the process tools, track lots of wafers through the fab (and manage “hot” lots of wafers that need to be expedited) and keep track of materials.

Another concern is power. A typical wafer fab uses as much energy as 10,000 homes. Energy bills run as high as $25 million annually. New fabs use LEED principles to reduce costs.

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