Europe Taking its Expertise in 450mm Equipment and Materials Manufacturing to Asia and the U.S.
By Rania Georgoutsakou, SEMI Europe
A February 7 workshop organized at imec (Leuven, Belgium) focused on the opportunities offered to European equipment and material suppliers by investing in the 450mm transition — and how small and medium companies in particular can increase their visibility towards a global customer base.
The event was organized as part of Bridge450, an EU-funded project that links European equipment and materials suppliers with foundries and IDMs worldwide, looking to promote Europe’s strengths in 450mm and identify the technology gaps where further work is needed.
Presenting first, Mike Bryant, CTO of Future Horizons, said that even though the 450mm transition has been delayed, most of the work that has already been done has not been wasted. Whereas in the past there was an evolution between technology nodes, today there is a revolution at every new node requiring new processing techniques. So even if 300mm remains the sole platform, there are still significant development costs involved and Europe’s investment in 450 technology is not lost.
Alain Jarre, CEO of Recif Technologies, confirmed that the payback in 450mm is already there: his company has improved their 300mm tool by a factor of 3 in the current node. He encouraged smaller companies to participate to EU funding calls — the added value of joining projects is not the actual funding, but rather the partnerships that are formed between companies, the cooperation and the visibility towards potential business partners. The purpose of Bridge450 is to place smaller companies on the global 450mm suppliers map, by mapping the expertise of all companies across the value chain.
Hans Lebon, senior vice president for Fab and Process Step Development at imec suggested that the transition to 450mm is not a question of whether the technology is available, but whether it will be cost effective and whether device makers will invest. In his evaluation of the economics of scaling to 450mm, he argued that simply scaling the tool would not bring the expected cost benefits, as die-based processing and the introduction of lithography are increasing costs. Companies will therefore need to be increasingly innovative and creative when developing their tools.
Malcolm Penn, CEO of Future Horizons, suggested that as the semiconductor manufacturing industry has become more mature, it is time to introduce new business models and the introduction of 450mm requires such a new model. Penn’s proposal: chipmakers should place an order and make a down payment. If fabs do not make a commitment, equipment makers will not be keen to invest significant amounts of money and time to develop 450mm tools. Penn argued that the original rational for 450mm still stands and when the economics makes sense the transition will take place.
To download the presentations, please visit 450 Central.
About Bridge450: Bridge 450 is a coordination and support action for 450mm topics establishing a Bridge between European Equipment and Materials entities and IDMs, foundries and entities worldwide. It receives EU co-financing under the Objective FP7-ICT-2013-11 “An action to develop a European strategy which addresses the challenges in manufacturing for 450mm in dialogue with G450C and with the U.S., Korea and Taiwan.” The members of Bridge450 are: ASM International NV (Coordinator), Future Horizons, Interuniversitair Micro-Electronica Centrum vzw, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung E.V., Applied Materials Israel Ltd., RECIF Technologies, Artemis Control AG, SEMI Europe Grenoble Office, M+W Germany GmbH and AIS Automation Dresden GmbH.
March 5, 2014