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450mm Fabs Back-Burnered Indefinitely

During the recent Industry Strategy Symposium in San Francisco, industry heads decided to more or less kill off the 450mm wafers, at least for the foreseeable future.

According to G. Dan Hutechson, a semiconductor equipment analyst and chairman/CEO of VLSI Research Inc. the 450mm wafer is likely on the back burner for at least the next 5 to 10 years. Industry heads from the top tech manufacturers in the world, including IBM, Samsung, Intel and TSMC all agreed it is best to stay with the current sized wafer instead of attempting to move towards a thicker option.

A few years ago, many of the top chip manufacturers wanted to make the move to 450mm. It would not be terribly difficult for the semiconductor production companies; indeed, the consortium succeeded in proving their technical viability. However, when feeling the pulse of equipment fabricators, they discovered less enthusiasm for the size increase. Moore’s Law is not quite dead yet, and the cost of adapting to a new wafer size is not a necessary expense.

When the industry moved to the 300mm wafers several years ago, equipment fabricators struggled with the transition as it cost companies both time and a substantial amount of money as they retooled production in order to accept the larger sized wafers. Though nearly two decades have passed since the introduction of the 300mm wafer, equipment fabricators are in no rush to make the next size push to 450mm.

The semiconductor industry has slowed a bit in recent years, posting only a modest growth. With the growth slowdown, industry executives ultimately decided there isn’t much of a need to make a massive switch to larger wafers. Additionally, the amount of money needed to invest into buildings and manufacturing facilities in order to integrate the 450mm wafers would cut down on the bottom line even further.

Instead of focusing on a size increase, semiconductor companies are encouraging innovation by utilizing different materials and adapting to different architectures. With that said, a spokeswoman for Applied Materials did state the continued advancement of 450mm will be monitored to see how it can best support customer needs.