Hopefully everyone is familiar with the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). It was launched in 1992, when the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) coordinated the first efforts of producing what was originally The National Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (NTRS). This roadmap of requirements and possible solutions was generated three times in 1992, 1994, and 1997. The NTRS provided a 15-year outlook on the major trends of the semiconductor industry. As such, it was a good reference document for semiconductor manufacturers, suppliers of equipment, materials, and software and provided clear targets for researchers in the outer years.
When the semiconductor industry became increasingly global, the realization that a Roadmap would provide guidance for the whole industry and would benefit from inputs from all regions of the world led to the creation of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).
The invitation to cooperate on the ITRS was extended by the SIA at the World Semiconductor Council in April of 1998 to Europe (represented by the European Electronics Component Manufacturers Association [EECA]), Korea (Korea Semiconductor Industry Association [KSIA]), Japan (formerly the Electronic Industry Association of Japan [EIAJ] and now the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association [JEITA]), and Taiwan (Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association [TSIA]).
Much has been written about the ITRS, which is perhaps the best roadmapping effort of all time in any industry. In fact, I stumbled across a dissertation titled “Technological Innovation in the Semiconductor Industry: A Case Study of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS)” written by Robert R. Schaller in his pursuit of a degree in philosophy at George Mason University. Robert did a great job analyzing the importance of the roadmap and includes anecdotes such as a short-lived attempt at AMD to create an internal roadmap, and how the ITRS relates to the roadmap to peace in the Middle East.
While the latest updates and revisions of the ITRS usually come out around this time of year, the organizers tell me that it will be in the spring of 2014 for the latest edition (which will be a full revision vs an update, which alternate every year).
A key aspect of the ITRS is that they go out of the way to NOT try to pick “winners and losers” as I’ve heard it called. It is clearly stated that: “The ITRS is devised and intended for technology assessment only and is without regard to any commercial considerations pertaining to individual products or equipment”.
That’s all well and good I suppose, and there is plenty of information that a savvy supplier can pull from the Roadmap about what technology is needed and what the market demand might look like. But it’s time to take it to the next step.
It’s time to think about creating a roadmap for equipment and materials companies, and their suppliers (i.e., suppliers of critical components and subsystems and raw materials). I recently had a conversation on exactly this topic with Gopal Rao, SEMATECH’s senior director of business development. Prior to joining SEMATECH, Rao served as director of Manufacturing Research at Intel, where he led a strategic portfolio of advanced manufacturing projects in partnership with universities and national labs. A 24-year veteran of Intel, Rao progressed through a variety of assignments in senior engineering and management roles.
Gopal attended The ConFab 2013 as a representative of Intel, and said he found the private meeting with suppliers quite useful. What he proposes we do in 2014 was at least introduced the concept of a roadmap for equipment and materials suppliers, perhaps in a panel session, and suggest it be a common thread in the private meetings between sponsors (suppliers) and VIPs (delegates from IC manufacturing companies). We had more than 170 such meetings in 2013. At the end of the conference, we’ll come up with a list of 4 or 5 “action items” for the industry to address. I like this concept a lot, and it’s perfect timing since we’re just now defining session topics and recruiting speakers and panelists.
I like this idea a lot and will plan on adding it to the agenda. If we can define what suppliers need to deliver in terms of throughput, uptime, automation, footprint, uniformity (wafer-to-wafer and tool-to-tool), data reporting and communication protocol, in-situ inspection… and what else?
The ConFab 2014, by the way, will be held June 22-25 at The Encore at The Wynn in Las Vegas. Don’t miss it!