What’s happening on the 450mm wafer front?

Speaking at the International Electronic s Forum 2010 early this month, TSMC’s CTO, Jack Sun, said that he believed a move to 450mm wafers is important for cost reduction and that is going to happen; he reckons middle of this decade. 

The three biggest capex spenders -TSMC, Samsung and Intel want 450mm. But none have contributed substantial funding – an estimated $25bn - $30bn R&D investment by suppliers. 300mm was funded by the equipment suppliers. The same may not be expected this time as the fact whether the suppliers have recouped their investments is still uncertain. Plus they have their other expensive baggage – transition to new process nodes, TSVs, materials etc. 

Now come to the equipment makers. To improve their competetiveness and therefore increase their chances to be selected by the tier 1 semiconductor companies in their future 450-mm operations, the European semiconductor equipment and materials makers support the move to 450mm. However, large non-European semiconductor equipment manufacturers, including Applied, Novellus, Lam, TEL and others, have publicly slammed the idea of the 450-mm wafer transition  

Prior to 2002 (before 300mm wafers actually took off), semiconductor and equipment revenues were more or less aligned. However, post 2002, semiconductor revenues have continued to diverge from equipment revenues, and the ratio of equipment to semiconductor revenues is at an all time low - a divergence attributed largely to the impact of 300mm wafers. 

So the question remains: Who funds the 450 mm, if at all??    

 

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