Semi kimonos open: 12 inches revealed

Calling it 300mm sounds boastful

The firms which make the equipment used by semiconductor firms to make silicon chips are predicting a rush to 12in wafer technology worth an estimated $60 billion in investment.

That news will be announced at a semiconductor industry silicon fest, Semicon West, with firms including Applied Materials expected to show a line-up of machinery to accomplish the miracle.

Firms such as Intel, NatSemi, TSMC and AMD are customers of such companies, and the capital investment and sheer slog of making the switch is not a piece of cake.

Intel said earlier this year that it would begin fabricating microprocessors using 12in wafer technology, but the machinery is of a different order to the current 8in wafer technology in place at most of its current factories.

However, the advantages of moving from 8in to 12in technology are that you can make many more chips from the latter.

The disadvantage of moving to a 12in fab process is that the wafers are inherently more fragile, and require a different sort of handling by the complex machinery which eventually churn out CuMines, Itanics, Celerons, Durons, Athlons and the rest.

Intel estimates new fabs cost over $2 billion each.

There is actually a very useful guide to how sand turns into microprocessors are made on the Intel site. ®