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Source: EE Times Asia
Date published: 07 May 2008

News Article:
Intel Corp., Samsung ElectronicsCo. Ltd and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have reached an agreement on the need for industry-wide collaboration to target a transition to larger, 450mm-sized wafers starting in 2012.

According to their announcement, the transition to larger wafers will enable continued growth of the semiconductor industry and help maintain a reasonable cost structure for future IC manufacturing and applications.

The companies said they will cooperate with the semiconductor industry to help ensure that all the required components, infrastructure and capability are developed and tested for a pilot line by their target date.

Bigger area, bigger benefits
Historically, manufacturing with larger wafers helps increase the ability to produce semiconductors at a lower cost. The total silicon surface area of a 450mm wafer and the number of printed die (individual computer chips, for example) is more than twice that of a 300mm wafer. The bigger wafers help lower the production cost per chip. Additionally, through more efficient use of energy, water and other resources, bigger wafers can help diminish overall use of resources per chip. For example, the conversion from 200mm wafers to 300mm wafers helped reduce aggregate emissions per chip of air pollution, global warming gasses and water, and further reduction is expected with a transition to 450mm wafers.

"There is a long history of innovation and problem solving in our industry that has delivered wafer transitions resulting in lower costs per area of silicon processed and overall industry growth," said Bob Bruck, VP and general manager, technology manufacturing engineering in Intel's technology and manufacturing group. "We, along with Samsung and TSMC, agree that the transition to 450mm wafers will follow the same pattern of delivering increased value to our customers."

Intel, Samsung and TSMC indicate that the semiconductor industry can improve its return on investment and substantially reduce 450mm R&D costs by applying aligned standards, rationalizing changes from 300mm infrastructure and automation, and working toward a common timeline. The companies also agree that a cooperative approach will help minimize risk and transition costs.

"The transition to 450mm wafers will benefit the entire ecosystem of the IC industry, and Intel, Samsung, TSMC will work together with suppliers and other semiconductor manufacturers to actively develop 450mm capability," said Cheong-Woo Byun, senior VP, memory manufacturing operation center, Samsung.

10-year transition
In the past, migration to the next larger wafer size traditionally began every 10 years after the last transition. For example, the industry began the transition to 300mm wafers in 2001, a decade after the initial 200mm manufacturing facilities were introduced in 1991.

Keeping in line with the historical pace of growth, Intel, Samsung and TSMC agree that 2012 is an appropriate target to begin the 450mm transition. Given the complexity of integrating all of the components for a transition of this size, the companies recognize that consistent evaluation of the target timeline will be critical to ensure industry-wide readiness.

"Increasing cost due to the complexity of advanced technology is a concern for the future," said Mark Liu, TSMC's senior VP of advanced technology business. "Intel, Samsung, and TSMC believe the transition to 450mm wafers is a potential solution to maintain a reasonable cost structure for the industry."

The three companies will continue to work with International Sematech, as it plays a critical role in coordinating industry efforts on 450mm wafer supply, standards setting and developing equipment test bed capabilities.

Sematech unveiled plans to hasten the industry's move to 4500mmat last year's Semicon West, but it was met with opposition from fab tool makers, who had not yet recovered from the R&D expenses entailed by the shift to 300mm. Sematech's announcement rekindled the debate over who will fund the development of next-generation fab tools.

ICT advancement usually comes with a financial cost and all businesses are profits driven. Despite attempts to portray the contrary, if it's not for money, no one will want to take the effort to start their own company anyway. Given a choice, I believe technologies will control the growth of technology advancement to the slowest pace possible in order to make as much profit as they can from a given level of technology. Research and development costs are one main concern that needs to be balanced with releasing new products. If newer products are released to the markets at a very fast pace, manufacturers and suppliers may not have made enough money to cover their R&D expenses. While more technology will bring about an improvement in living standards, consumers are not always in power to influence the availability of more advanced products. Can a balance ever be achieved?

TSMC, Intel, Samsung join hands on 450mm shift -
Accessed on 05 Nov 2008