Samsung’s roll-out is a bit hard to predict, as it will be strongly influenced by whether the first parts are DRAM, NAND Flash or even SoC logic.
TSMC has announced that its first 450mm pilot line was planned for the Fab 12 Phase 6, starting with 20nm technology. The timing of this pilot line is said to be 2013-14, with 450mm production line planned for 2015-16. If met, this timescale would be one to two years more aggressive than Intel’s. It is known that TSMC’s 20nm process is well advanced with ARM building a Cortex A-15 chip to prove both the TSMC process and ARM’s cell library at this node.
Samsung, on the other hand, has made no public announcements on either the locations or timescales for its 450mm plans. Given the cost-effectiveness of its 300mm lines, it may wait for the others to make the initial 450mm moves first.
Role of G450C
According to Gartner, now that the Global 450 Consortium (G450C) has been established as a proving ground for 450mm equipment, development is moving forward rapidly.
Moving to 450mm process is an economic decision. For 450mm process to succeed, G450C must show that it can produce semiconductor dies less expensively than the 300mm process currently in production.
While the G450C pilot line will be ready to accept equipment in 2013, it is highly unlikely that 450mm will enter production before 2018.
The money needed to R&D the 450mm production lines will place a significant strain on semiconductor equipment manufacturers, as the spending needed on 450mm alone is greater than the current R&D spending by the equipment manufacturers.
Gartner has made the following recommendations for 450mm fabs:
1. Semiconductor equipment makers must be engaged in 450mm development, either by participating in the G450C or Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC), or by working closely with one of the G450C semiconductor manufacturers.
2. Semiconductor manufacturers will need to communicate openly with the equipment makers to ensure that the equipment is developed correctly and that the equipment makers are enabled to do what they do best.
3. The G450C will need to engage the lithography makers to ensure that lithography will be available when the semiconductor manufacturers are ready to move to production.
Reducing manufacturing costs
In 2007, Gartner had estimated the R&D costs of equipment for the 450mm transition to be at least $16 billion. More recent equipment industry studies suggest that the cost will be even higher, between $25 billion and $40 billion.
For the 450mm programme to be successful without financially crippling the equipment industry, the semiconductor manufacturers will need to assist to see adoption of 450 mm by 2018.
IMEC and International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) have well-established programmes focused on the challenges posed by manufacturing with 450mm wafers. One of the biggest hurdles in the transition to 450mm process is lithography. Another major barrier facing 450mm manufacturing is whether both 193 immersion (193i) and EUV lithography tools will be able to match their 300mm counterparts in terms of wafer throughput. A bigger issue is the source power needed to scale for 450mm manufacturing. The primary motivation behind the move to 450mm wafers is to reduce manufacturing costs.
When is the transition likely?
The transition to 450mm manufacturing will happen by 2020. However, the expected manufacturing cost savings will be only 10 per cent, extending the return on investments in R&D by ten years or more.
Semiconductor companies driving the move to 450mm—Intel, Samsung, TSMC, GlobalFoundries and IBM—are spearheading the G450C for 450mm initial development at Albany Nanotech.
In addition, the IMEC research consortium in Leuven, Belgium, has set up a lab for the development of 450mm equipment and processes. Equipment manufacturers seeking alternatives to the G450C—perhaps looking to have multiple 450mm projects—will be able to work with IMEC to scale their 450mm equipment.
Since the G450C has space for about 50 tools at its pilot line, not all of the equipment makers will be able to show off their wares at Albany. The IMEC facility provides them another alternative for 450mm development.
Semiconductor manufacturers will most likely have 450mm development labs working in parallel with the G450C and IMEC to help accelerate the move to 450mm wafers.
Best case roll-out
The 450mm technology roadmap will be driven by the current 300mm advanced technologies roadmap, despite the fact that its early production life will start one or two generations in arrears.
Based on this model, the best-case roll-out timing is early test tools in 2012, demo tools in 2012-13 and first-generation production tools available in 2015. This would place the 450mm transition node at 11nm, with initial production at 16nm. The technology wall of death for the remaining 300mm-based producers would start to bite home in the 2020 time-frame.
The author is an executive editor at EFY