TSMC joins giant fab race
450 mm wafers in five years, maybe
Taiwanese contract fab TSMC has become the latest chip-maker to join the 450mm (18 inch) wafer push, announcing a five-year project to put between $US8 billion and $US10 billion into a new chip plant.
The project received government approval on Monday.
Larger wafers are seen as key to future chip fabrication processes. As chips become more complex, more masks are needed during manufacture – making the end result more expensive. By lifting the wafer size from today’s 300mm to 450mm, the fabrication processes happen to more individual devices (roughly double) simultaneously, hopefully improving chip economics.
According to Reuters, TSMC’s chairman Morris Chang says he believes rivals such as Samsung are also working on a 450 mm process. He said he believes technical challenges to the process will take five years to overcome.
Intel is already committed to 450mm processes, with plans for fabs in Arizona and Oregon.
A working 450 mm process would set the industry on course to deliver “trillion-transistor” devices.
The technical challenges for such large wafers arise from both the complexity of the devices themselves, and the material handling challenges. Standardisation efforts for such larger wafers include specifications for warp, surface conditions, edge profile and other characteristics – none of which mattered in the ancient days of 50 mm wafers.
Chip design is also becoming more challenging. In this interview with eeTimes, NVIDIA’s Sameer Halepete says physical design teams for wafers will be strained, demanding a shift to better design tools. ®
barking up wrong tree
You don't ask Intel or TSMC when we will have 450mm fabs you ask AMAT and the other tool makers. From what I recall the tool makers at first took a bath on the transition to 300mm with the ROI taking years to recover. In a deep recession with chips ever becoming more of a commodity my guess is they will not be in a rush to move to 450mm as they are largely the ones on the hook for getting everything working right.
Re: barking up wrong tree
yes the machine makers are the ones who have to develop the technology. applied materials, telcor etc...it's also why you dont have much proprietary technology on each chip for fabrication. In order to have exclusive technology you have to pay for your own machines development and mfg.
Re: Single crystals
Well considering even for 300mm the ingots weigh as much as a car probably a safe assumption.