TSMC exec promotes ‘gigafabs’ and 2x tool productivity

November 2, 2005 – At International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative’s (ISMI) 2nd Symposium on Manufacturing Effectiveness, Austin, TX, TSMC’s VP of operations Mark Liu told participants he believes that the consumer electronics era may drive IC manufacturers to build more flexible “gigafabs” and persuade equipment makers to double tool productivity.

In his keynote address to an audience of about 300, Liu said that the consumer electronics sector (including wireless communication, video cameras, home appliances, and entertainment devices) driving change in the semiconductor industry by demanding shorter product cycles and accelerated production times in order to ramp up multiple products with increasingly lower price tags. “The economics of the consumer market will drive the semiconductor industry to be more volatile, more diverse, and even more cost-sensitive,” Liu said. “There is [opportunity] here, but we have to recognize the difficult set of demands.”

Liu advocated looking to the economics of the consumer electronics industry, targeting 2x productivity improvement before the expected transition to 450mm wafer size, specifying that market followers will need to customize their equipment for high-mix, low volume production, enabling smaller lot sizes and frequent recipe changes. Industry analysts claim that consumer electronics accounts for ~16% of the total semiconductor world market, but is forecast to increase to 22% ($81 billion) by 2010, while product prices have been decreasing by 25% per year since 1998.

Using TSMC’s Fab 12 and Fab 14 (in Hsinchu and Tainan, respectively) as examples, Liu defined a gigafab as one that includes a $6-$10 billion investment; capacity for 80,000-100,000 wafer starts per month; low operating costs; high flexibility, agility and precision; and short cycle times, claiming that these models help address the consumer market. He summarized with the challenges for chipmakers in implementing the gigafab concept, as follows:
– keeping equipment affordable by working with design engineers, reducing costs along the supply chain;
– improving productivity in 300mm tools;
– aligning automated material handling systems with tool roadmaps to improve overall productivity; and
– aggressively pursue cycle time improvements. (For example, with mask layers having doubled, lithography cycle times have had to decrease by half to maintain the same level of productivity.)

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