Preparing for the Move to 450 mm

Preparing for the Move to 450 mm

By Bill Shaner, VP and GM, Microenvironments Business, Entegris


Bill ShanerThe 450 mm question no longer is whether the semiconductor industry will move to the larger wafer size. Today, the question is: How soon? While the transition to 450 mm is expected to cost chip manufacturers and suppliers more than previous wafer-diameter shifts, most experts agree the investments will be offset by gains in productivity, cost effectiveness and product performance.

The exact debut date of 450 mm wafer production is far from certain. Still, many in the industry – including several large Integrated Device Makers (IDMs) and forward-looking suppliers – realize that it is a certainty and are preparing for the change and its multiple repercussions. Here are the top-line considerations:

1. 450 mm manufacturing is a competitive necessity.

Recognizing the need to follow Moore’s law, several large (IDMs) have announced plans for 450 mm wafer manufacturing. While working to gain efficiencies in electronic device size and device-line widths, IDMs know that they must also employ larger wafers to gain significant economy-of-scale benefits, maximize chip yields and, ultimately, decrease production costs.

2. The change will create new wafer handling challenges.

Larger wafers will require more advanced handling technology. Fortunately, manufacturers and suppliers can rely on the lessons learned from the last move to a larger wafer – from 200 mm to 300 mm – in developing advanced methods to transport and protect the larger wafers. Among the issues that come with 450 mm are:   

  • Wafer Fragility. Increased wafer size means greater fragility. This is because the larger wafer is proportionally thinner and has a lower natural frequency than the 300 mm wafer. Therefore, its response to vibrations under normal shipping methods will be more severe.  Careful handling with a robust secondary packaging system is crucial to help avoid breakage.
  • Wafer Sag. The proportionally thinner wafer also increases the potential for a 450 mm wafer to sag or “bow” more than a 300 mm wafer. This sag could create clearance issues that impact wafer-handling speeds and, therefore, a manufacturer’s productivity. New MAC and FOUP designs must allow for dimensional accuracy and structural integrity of the carrier in light of the increased carrier size and wafer mass. 
  • Increased Weight. A 450 mm wafer weighs three times as much as a 300 mm wafer. Multiply this by 25 – the average number of wafers transported in a single MAC or FOUP – add the additional weight of the larger MAC or FOUP itself, and the total mass of the 450 mm wafer carrier will be up to five times that of the 300 mm carrier. Because of the heavier payload, end users will need to rely more on automated handling of the 450 mm carriers within the plant.

3. Early adoption is key for suppliers.

The move to 450 mm will require a significant investment in R&D, so there will likely be fewer 450 mm wafer manufacturers and customers than exist within the 300 mm market. The industry won't be ready to build a factory until all of the suppliers are in alignment, meaning all the players need to closely collaborate to ensure a smooth transition. The suppliers who come together early to make the necessary technologies available will gain a sustained business for the 30 years or more that these fabs will be in operation.

These companies also will likely gain market share around the globe. With fewer players in the 450 mm space, many of the regional and nationalistic supply chains of the past will consolidate into a more global portfolio of technology leaders.  The sooner device makers align the global technical leaders, the sooner the supply chain will yield the technical and commercial results to enable successful commercialization of 450mm.

Additionally, those suppliers aspiring for relevance in 450 mm can demonstrate their value through leadership in advanced 300mm process development.  Even if they are not currently in a position to leap into 450 mm, those who are driving sub 32 nm processes will be well-positioned for the future.  As manufacturers begin production of chips at 22 nm and smaller, they will want to work with advanced suppliers who understand how this process node will work on various wafer sizes.

4. Funding could require creativity.

Billions of dollars will be required to launch commercial 450 mm technology, and many suppliers aren’t in the financial position to make the necessary investments on their own. However, many can seek financial support from local governments or other community players that stand to gain from the economic growth of new business and more jobs.   

Case in point: Entegris recently opened an advanced technology manufacturing facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., to produce 450 mm wafer-handling products and Extreme Ultraviolent Light (EUV) reticle pods. Entegris worked with Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Council (EDC), which provided a performance-based support package worth an estimated $1.3 million from the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the state of Colorado.

Of course, such entities have finite funding, so suppliers who make the move to 450 mm first will be first in line for available financial support.

The move to 450 mm manufacturing is a certainty. For industry players who want to take advantage of the transition and the business opportunity it creates, now is the time to prepare their businesses.



About the Author

As the vice president and general manager for the Microenvironments division of Entegris, Bill Shaner manages all wafer and reticle-handling products. The division is responsible for product development, engineering, manufacturing and marketing of these solutions to end-user customers. With more than 15 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, Shaner has been a critical contributor to helping the company make the multiple transitions from 150 mm to 450 mm wafer handling solutions and advanced reticle/mask handling.

The above views are solely those of the author. If you have a different viewpoint, please contact Deborah Geiger ( about writing an article for this publication, the SEMI Global Update.

SEMI Global Update
July 5, 2011