Next Step in the 450 mm Debate Scheduled for ITPC in November

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Next Step in the 450 mm Debate Scheduled for ITPC in November

The ongoing debate on wafer size transition looks to have its next milestone at the International Trade Partner Conference (ITPC), scheduled for November 3-5 in Hawaii. ITPC is the annual industry gathering that promotes open dialog and fosters long-term relationships in the industry. This year’s ITPC agenda includes Robert Bruck, Intel’s VP of Technology and Manufacturing Group and prominent 450 mm spokesperson, and Charles Fine, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been studying the economic impacts of a proposed wafer size increase.

A transition to 450 mm wafers is an extremely expensive and risky proposition – estimates run to well over $25 billion at the high end. SEMI has taken the position that that the semiconductor industry simply cannot afford to make such an expensive investment based on future “expectations” without an objective analysis of cost and benefit.

The 450 mm debate began with the 2005 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) forecasting the 450 mm transition for 2012. SEMI has claimed that limited research and development dollars available to tool and equipment suppliers required that available R&D capital had to be focused on device scaling to remain on track with Moore Law. A white paper released by SEMI in 2005 shows that semiconductor industry R&D dollars are becoming more constrained as advanced process R&D costs rise.

In order to determine the best path forward for the industry, the Equipment Productivity Working Group (EPWG) was formed two and a half years ago as SEMI and ISMI worked to analyze the economic realities of the future of the semiconductor industry.

In April, Intel indicated that 450 mm wafers will be a “demand driven issue,” but that the company plans to support “unprecedented cooperation with suppliers.”

In May of this year, Intel, Samsung Electronics and TSMC announced “an agreement on the need for industry-wide collaboration” to target a transition to larger, 450mm-sized wafers starting in 2012. EPWG recently released the industry’s only comprehensive public analysis on the subject (Economics of 450 mm Wafer Transition), concluding that “it is clear that the industry as a whole would not benefit from 450 mm for the foreseeable future.”

This year’s ITPC may be a historic milestone in the 450 debate. The conference has long been the forum that sparked major industry transitions. The relaxed, intimate setting, premier assembly of industry leaders and open dialog between suppliers and customers have initiated major business deals, technology shifts, industry partnerships, and stellar careers.

Other speakers at ITPC with a major stake in the 450 mm debate include Se-Yong Oh, Samsung; Hans Stork, Applied Materials; Luc Van den hove, IMEC, Jin-Seong Choi, Hynix; Rick Wallace, KLA-Tencor, Eric Meurice, ASML; Paolo Gargini, Intel; Chris Chi, SMIC, and Brian Harrison, Numonyx. In addition to the speakers, attendees representing senior leadership from throughout the industry are expected to share and contribute their thoughts on the 450 mm subject, as well as other issues that significantly impact our industry.

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