450mm Is On Its Way!

2018 looks as if it will be the year when mass production will begin, and it’s not a moment too soon.

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By Adrienne Downey
Intel finally has taken the big plunge into 450mm manufacturing with the announcement of the start of construction of fab D1X Module 2. The company plans to spend $2 billion on construction of the new development fab this year alone. Its twin fab, Module 1, is 450mm-compatible, but will begin production later this year as a 300mm fab running a 14nm process technology. Intel’s announcement should help spur development efforts across the industry to have 450mm tools ready for pilot lines in 2015.

Semico’s Wafer Demand Model projects capacity needs through 2021. Combining that information with Semico’s Fab Database provides a unique ability to determine the number of fabs needed to meet the advanced technology fab requirements in the future. From 2012 to 2017, total semiconductor units are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.9%. Total wafer demand will grow at a 9.4% CAGR during the same time frame. Wafer demand for 90nm and smaller technologies will grow even faster at 11.9%.

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Figure 1: Semiconductor Unit and Wafer Demand

Source: Semico Research Corp.

Based on equipment suppliers’ announced timelines and Semico’s analysis of technology development, pilot production on 450mm wafers will begin in the 2015-2016 timeframe. Mass production should begin in 2018. In that year, Semico believes the industry will need four 450mm wafer fabs, in addition to 118 300mm fabs, to meet the forecasted demand from smartphones, computers, tablets and a myriad of other end use products. By 2021, a total of 19 450mm fabs will need to be online to support the more than 230 million wafers (in 200mm equivalents) forecasted.

It is still unclear if EUV tools will be ready in time for the 450mm fabs. Is Intel betting that 450mm EUV tools will be ready by 2015? Both ASML and Nikon are working to make some type of lithography tools available in the 2015-2016 timeframe. Intel is supporting several options and has yet to announce a set path. ASML is the leader in EUV technology, while Nikon’s tools use 193nm ArF immersion lithography. Nikon recently agreed to bring its 450mm lithography tool to the G450C development campus in Albany, New York, in April 2015, thus completing the group’s plans to bring in a complete set of wafer process and metrology tools. This will support Intel, Samsung, and TSMC in their 450mm fab development efforts.

The main question surrounding 450mm has gone from if it will happen to when it will happen. It’s now looking like 2018 is a realistic production target date. The industry will not stagnate at the existing 300mm silicon wafer size. Consumer demands for more memory will push NAND and DRAM to ever increasing product densities and increased unit volumes. Logic products will continue to move up the performance curve while offering more features in a system-on-chip or multi-core product.

In order to meet those technology demands, the industry will have to find a revolutionary solution. Whether it is 450mm wafers or not, the solution will most likely be expensive and disruptive. Will the industry choose an expensive solution that we’ve never tried before, i.e. carbon nanotubes, or will we work with a familiar silicon wafer and just figure out how to accommodate a new size?

For the complete analysis, check out Semico’s report, 450mm Wafer Manufacturing: The Semiconductor Industry at a Crossroads. Contact Rick Vogelei at [email protected] for details.

— Adrienne Downey is director of manufacturing research at Semico Research.