Imec has just announced that they will drop EUR100M to build 450mm fab cleanrooms in Belgium with support of the Flemish government. With construction of the 450mm pilot lab (NFX building at CNSE) fast-tracked and well underway in Albany, under the auspices of the G450C, BIG question is: Can the major IDMs/Foundries and key OEMs support the efforts of two different consortia who are concurrently chasing the move to 450mm? Interviews with several key industry execs here at Semicon West reveal a unanimous, so far, NO!
I spoke with Brian Toohey, Dr. David Lam (yes, that Dr. Lam), David Jiminez and Dan Hutcheson about this, and the verdict from all was thumbs down. With Imec's interest in mixed signal and high-performance analog, there was some surprise to find them diving in to the 450mm transition in this way. No small part of their concern beyond the cost challenge of supporting competing consortiums is the current economic cimate in the EU. "Show me the money?"
Industry estimates range from $25B to $40B to complete the transition ( and we all know the history of "estimates" ), and the Albany project already has the financial backing of IBM, Intel, TSMC, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung, along with (of course) the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The facility housing the G450C fab on the CNSE campus is nearing completion as we attend Semicon West.
Because the earlier move to 300mm, in the late 90's after its initial "false start", was viewed as not cost-effective, European IC manufacturers ( led by ST Mircoelectronics ) have been tentative with their investments in 450mm. But clearly the prospect of seeing 450mm research happening exclusively at the G450C Albany site has spurred Imec to act.
It looks like a "pay to play" scenario is shaping up, and we may yet see one of the fabless giants (Qualcomm?) join the chipmakers of the G450C — and isolate the Imec efforts even further? We should learn more tomorrow during the 450mm Supply Chain Forum.. .this program should prove to offer a lively panel discussion!
Cost appears to continue to be the limiting factor with both eBeam and EUV lithography options, whereas viable 3DIC TSV solutions remain a technology challenge as well according to Risto Puhhaka at VLSI Research.
Ironically, amidst all the interest in, and controversies involving, the bleeding edge and NGL options, today's schedule will also feature a session with the SEMI Secondary Equipment & Applications special interest group that will deal with current availability and support of legacy 200mm and 300mm tools that will ultimately impact Tier 2 and Tier 3 fabs seeking capacity and/or technology upgrades ovet the next couple years. More news.... and opinions.... from "the front" soon !