Equipment Quality and Employment
For a fabrication lab to be successful, it has to work at almost full potential. Anything less causes a dent in the manufacturing target and has to be taken into consideration. There are also a large number of fabricated chips being rejected after the quality and electricity checks. All these factors determine the final output. These machines have to be state of the art to provide maximum throughput in order for the fabrication labs to be successfully produce IC and other components.
Using such specialised equipment requires trained professionals, as you would not want an ingot turn into scrap overnight. “Exclusive training is provided with new equipment. A dedicated 24×7 support centre is also available with our products,” adds Belle.
Fabrication status in India
LAM Research is a manufacturer of fabrication equipment with a very significant market share. Hence, they are in a good position to comment about the fabrication sector in India.
With the setting up of such a big time firm in India comes the question of the Indian market. Today, in India we have all of the wafer related products being imported from outside. According to Belle, “Most of the steps are done in controlled atmosphere or clean room in US. Here (in India) we have developers focusing on the designing, of those equipment.”
This causes limited products being called into the continent, as no supplier would supply 20 ICs internationally without a hefty transport charge. This filter allows only the well-established and promising ICs to be available in India.
A couple of years ago, steps were being taken to remove this dependence, and there were talks of establishing some fabrication labs in India. This would have provided a boost to the Indian semiconductor industry while putting fabrication equipment manufacturers on the Indian map. The government extended the deadline for submission of documents up to April 30, 2016, stating that, “They are yet to submit some ‘other documents’, which are considered essential to demonstrate their commitment to the projects.” Such bottlenecks can often cause long delays in the proposed timeline.
A collaboration of industry veterans Lou Hutter and Mark Harward, Cricket Semiconductor is expected to start work on setting up a fabrication plant (fab) in Madhya Pradesh by Q2 2016. The plant is expected to be operational by 2018. Industry experts expect the analogue fab to operate on 180-130 nm technologies. Also, since large economies of scale are required to drive down costs, this fab is slated to produce 60,000 wafers per month. At this sort of volume, the fab could become cost competitive compared to the digital fabs. This could very well prove to be the very step in redefining electronics in India, while taking the Make in India initiative to new heights.
Welcome to the future
With Moore’s Law going to the wolves, there is going to be an ever-increasing growth in electronics design. “Technology is moving at a very fast pace. Now we have microSD cards with 64 – 128 GB storage. This calls for state of the art equipment that we provide,” adds Belle. Such design would always require equipment capable of working with high accuracy. This would always keep such fabrication equipment designers on their toes, working on bringing in the next “it” product.
By Saurabh Durgapal with inputs from Mr. Ashok Belle, MD, Lam Research India