Industry says ‘no’ on 450-mm wafer size, but no pushback on Intel

Jul 15 2008 7:34AM

The Sandbox – Blog on EDN – 450000245

I’m starting to wonder what the real story is behind all the talk on the 450-mm wafer size. I’m here at Semicon West in San Francisco this week, where ‘450’ is the buzz everywhere you turn, with most equipment vendors saying they won’t go down that path.

SEMI recently released a report on the economics of a 450-mm wafer transition and concluded that for now, “Shrinks, new materials, and new processes will continue to advance the industry on Moore’s Law, but there are simply not enough R&D resources available to continue such advancement in nodes and processes AND to work on a 450-mm wafer size transition.”

This report is corroborated by a recent survey of semiconductor industry insiders by Wright Williams & Kelly Inc that found some survey respondents did not expect to see 450-mm wafers in production until 2014 or beyond, with more than half of the respondents indicating that 450-mm wafers would never happen in production manufacturing, marking an increase in negative sentiment over the 2007 results.

After the enormous cost to make the 300-mm wafer transition, semiconductor manufacturing equipment vendors are rightfully cautious, however that didn’t stop Intel, Samsung and TSMC from saying in May that they want a 450-mm wafer pilot line in 2012, justified by one Intel exec who said last month that equipment makers are overestimating the cost of moving to 450-mm wafers.

This seems to fly in the face of what Stanley Myers, president and CEO of SEMI said yesterday during a panel discussion when asked if there is push-back on Intel, given that most industry players do not wish to make the move to 450, “Intel is THE customer, so they are part of the analysis,” referring to SEMI’s report which leads me to think that some parties are holding back what they truly think, or are too shy to step up and say no to Intel, which frankly has called most of the shots in the equipment industry. Given the revenue-generated power and capex spending of Intel, Samsung and TSMC combined, I’m starting to think the equipment makers may have no choice but to begin working on the move to 450 whether they like it or not.

Chime in with your thoughts.
-Ann Steffora Mutschler, Senior Editor