450 mm Development Cost: $25 to $40 Billion

G450C Consortium Gears Up for Global Control of 450 Development Efforts

In the most complete, public discussion to date on the scope and character of the 450 mm wafer transition,  representatives of SEMATECH, policy-makers from the European Commission, industry consortia, and technology suppliers met to discuss the implications of 450 mm transition at SEMICON Europa on October 13-14, in Dresden, Germany.  Among the highlights of the 2-day session was the 450 transition price tag estimated by speakers at $25-$40 billion, much of it centered at the Global 450 Consortium (G450C), perhaps with little room for other industry consortia or non-G450C participants. 

According to Tom Jefferson, 450 program manager at SEMATECH, by mid-2013 to early 2014, a complete 450 mm production line will be established in New York containing 50 different tool types.  The objective of the pilot line will be to develop data to support the purchase of production-line tools and it is unlikely that non-participants in G450C will be favorably considered for 450 production lines.  According to many speakers--like the case with 200 mm tools during the 300 mm transition--when 450 mm reaches production, significant 300 mm development will cease.

What 450 Means for Europe and 300mm

The 450mm Progress Review at SEMICON Europa was organized by Lothar Pfitzner, Fraunhofer IISB, and included sessions on R&D and Planning, Facilities, Silicon and Metrology, FEOL Equipment and Automation, and Technology and Device Issues.  Georg Kelm, head of the European Commission’s Nanoelectronics sector, discussed the preliminary results of a draft study, due by year’s end, which seeks to clarify policy options and support considerations for the European semiconductor industry.  Preliminary conclusions of the study claim that once 450mm enters full production, further 300mm node development will cease for tool suppliers due to limited resources and poor return on investment.  Some equipment suppliers may choose to stay off 450mm and focus on specialty development on 300mm platforms, but the 8nm node is likely to be the 450mm equivalent of 65nm’s ‘300mm only’ moment.  Furthermore, the “Post CMOS” era will likely be exclusively on 450mm wafers.

Once 450mm is fully developed, spare capacity in 300mm will emerge, encouraging a migration from 200 mm production, impacting the viability and competitiveness of both 200 mm and 300 mm fabs in Europe and the world.  In 15-20 years, even low volume, mature technologies in MEMS, power and analog could migrate to 450 mm fabs.

How the EU chooses to support the semiconductor industry through the coming years is being evaluated by the study, industry players and policymakers throughout the region.  There are clear divergences of interests across the industry: European IC manufacturers are currently not planning 450 mm investments; many equipment and materials suppliers see an opportunity, but many suppliers see the 450 R&D draw threatening long-term profitability and current customers. Similarly, European consortia and R&D organizations see both an opportunity and a threat as--unlike current 300 mm process development which occurs at multiple locations around the globe--near-term 450 development seems likely to be exclusively conducted at the G450C site in New York. 

Kelm acknowledged the prominence of different views on government support for More-Than Moore, and More Moore programs and the challenges 450 will make on current semiconductor and high-tech policy. With $2-3 billion necessary for a stake in a 450 development fab capability, it is unclear whether both wafer size transition, next node scaling, new transistor technology, and 3D IC could be simultaneously be funded.   With 450 demanding such a large resource commitment, it is also unclear how semiconductor industry support will fare among all European Key Enabling Technologies (biotechnology, advanced materials, photonics, etc.).  

Michel Brillouet, Senior Advisor, CEA-LETI, who estimated the total cost for 450 wafer size conversion to reach as high as $40 billion, summarized the EU options: help develop 450 and forget all More-than-Moore projects; forget 450 and concentrate on other process technologies such as 3D, EUV, etc,; and support R&D by equipment and material suppliers without a European production or pilot development lab. 

Effective Migration: Affordable and On-Time?

Hans Lebon, VP Fab & Process Step Development at IMEC, began his presentation with the statement that “wafer size transition accelerates industry consolidation.”  Estimating the cost of the transition at $25 billion, Lebon said the 300 mm wafer size transition “wasn’t cost effective.” One of the ways to manage costs will be through “fewer equipment platforms.”  Imec is still trying to formulate a role in 450, and claimed there “still was a long journey to go.”

Tom Jefferson from SEMATECH, however, sees a clear timeline, schedule and participation process in place for 450.  He stated that over 40 companies are participating in the program, defects per wafer have been reduced from more than 3000 to less than 200, and that effective SEMI standards have been developed to enable development. Jefferson reiterated the key details of the September announcement that IBM, Intel, TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung, along with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, University of Albany, State University of New York, have committed $4.4 billion to next-generation chip research, including 450 mm wafer processing.  How much of the announced $4.4 billion was already-committed IBM money for other (non-450) advanced chip design and technology development was not verified. The new fab site has been prepared and walls are going up on the fast-track project.  Nanoimprint technology from EV Group will be used as the “stopgap measure” in lieu of a workable EUV solution.

On Day 2 of the Session, Jefferson returned to clarify that the pilot line will include 50 types of tools, many with more than one supplier contributing.  The goal of the pilot line will be to develop a database that will be used to support production tool purchasing.  Participants in the program will benefit from access to patterned and non-patterned wafers, shared metrology and Multi Application Carriers (MACs), shared consortium staff resources, data sharing, and “financially leveraged business partnerships” with consortium partners. Suppliers who do not participate in the program will be lower on the priority for access to test wafers.  The impression left was that not participating in the program will lower the probability of participation in production line rollouts by consortium partners.

Jefferson also clarified the intercept point of the pilot line.  The consortium is expected to have different intercept points for logic and DRAM, but the “expectation should be for 10 nm and beyond,” and the timing for the second half of 2013-early 2014.

New Requirements, Solutions and Technologies for 450 Fabs

Other presentations during the 2-day program addressed many unique fab, tool and technology requirements for larger wafers.  These diverse presentations demonstrated that while 450 mm pilot plans are sharpening around firm schedules and requirements, considerable engineering and science work has yet to be completed.

Peter Csatary, Head of Group Technologies, M+W Group, highlighted the utility, construction, material handling requirements for a 450 fab. Ines Stolberg, Manager Strategic Marketing Litho, Vistec, discussed their concept for a direct write, variable beam (rather than single beam) approach to maskless lithography.  Guilhem Delpu from Recif discussed work being funded by the EU on improving vibration, cleanliness and substrate affects on wafer handling.

Geert van der Zalm of Bosch Rexroth also discussed alternative material handling approaches and control strategies for 450 mm wafers to manage vibration with heavier loads and longer arms.  “We may need to rethink tool architecture, such as using inverted linear motor to enable inline vacuum transport that has been proven useful in the solar industry.”  Michael Schilp, Zimmermann & Schilp Handhabungstechnik, also discussed a radically alternative approach to non-contact 450 mm wafer handling using ultrasound.

Results from another European funded project on etch process development illustrated the challenges in 450 mm process development.  Mike Cooke from Oxford Instruments indicated the first tests on 450 PECVD SiO2 processing have so far yielded only a 4.2% uniformity across all points.  In induction coupled etch plasma, a +/- 10% uniformity across a 450 wafer has been achieved (half of the non-uniformity at the wafer edge), that according to Cooke was “not good enough, but a useful start.”

November 2011