Gearing Up for The ConFab 2011


Pete Singer

As I write this mid-September 2010, the trees are just starting to turn from green to red and yellow here in New England and there's a bit of a chill in the air -- yet my thoughts have already turned to Spring and fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. We are already planning for The ConFab 2011, our invitation-only conference and networking event, to be held May 15-19 at the new M Resort Spa & Casino.

During the last seven years, PennWell and Solid State Technology have hosted the event, focused squarely on the economic and technical challenges of semiconductor manufacturing. As the conference chair, I work with our advisory board to put together the conference program.

The semiconductor industry went from having one of the worst years ever in 2009 to one of the best years in 2010. But even in this time of prosperity, I know that many of us worry about the future. Is the next downturn right around the corner? Are companies adding capacity too quickly? Is the semiconductor industry no longer the dynamic growth engine it once was? What does Asia's growing dominance mean?

Then there are the technology hurdles. Pundits are saying that the high cost of R&D will mean only a handful of companies will have deep enough pockets to fund the most advanced technology. Scaling could run out of steam by 2015 or so and the "next switch" after the transistor has yet to be found. EUV appears to be the lithography tool of choice, but will it be ready for volume production? Can 3D integration provide another path to continue with Moore's Law?

Answers to these questions are elusive, but these are exactly the kinds of topics we dig into each year at The ConFab. Earlier this year, we heard from Eli Harrari, founder and CEO of Sandisk, on the future of the NAND flash business. John Chen, vp of NVIDIA, chaired a panel where we learned just how keenly interested fabless companies are in manufacturing capabilities, and how they are driving manufacturing technology in new directions. Dr. Norimasa Kishi, director of the Nissan Research Center, gave us a tantalizing look at the car of the future and the role automotive electronics will play. Execs from Texas Instruments gave an in-depth look at their unique R&D strategy. Other sessions focused on the economic outlook for the post-recession semiconductor industry, next generation lithography, collaborative R&D models, 3D integration, and more.

For 2011, we're aiming even higher. We plan to sharpen our focus on the important role that fabless companies play in driving semiconductor manufacturing tech. We will explore the opportunities of high growth markets such as MEMS and LEDs, how these fit with traditional semiconductor models, and how they are driving foundries and equipment and materials suppliers. Next generation litho is sure to be a hot button, including EUV, mask technology and multiple e-beam approaches. 450mm is also sure to be included (particularly since SEMATECH's Scott Kramer is now on our advisory board).

Back-end challenges and the ever-increasing cost contribution to the finished part will also be covered. As one advisory board member noted, this part of the supply chain (OSATs, assembly and test suppliers) tends to be a somewhat overlooked/under-served part of our industry. "The days of independent silicon development and package development are over, as things like CPI (chip packaging interaction) are heating up and driving collaboration and/or vertical integration," he explained.

In these days when social media is all the rage, and online networking increasingly occupies more of our days, it may seem extraordinary to host a meeting where people fly in from all over the world. But that's exactly what The ConFab is all about, and it definitely is extraordinary!

So how can you participate? Send me your ideas and I'll bring them up in our regular discussions with the advisory board. If you'd like to attend as our guest – no matter where you are in the world -- point your browser to and check out the attendee qualification form. And, of course, if you're interested in joining as a sponsor, please contact Jo-Ann Pellegrini, Sales Manager, (650) 941-3169,

Regardless of your organization's place in the semiconductor manfuacturing value chain, you'll find opportunities at The ConFab to talk business, listen to industry leaders and confer on matters of importance – but also relax and have some fun! I hope to see you there.

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