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Wafer manufacturing giants tape out a new, larger wafer platform for the future.

Three major players in integrated circuit manufacturing -- Samsung Electronics, Intel Corporation, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) -- have made the announcement of an agreement for a new, even larger wafer production standard. The current wafer plants crank out 300mm discs, but going forward, the three companies feel that the need for another graduation in area is necessary. They will also work with International Sematech to insure a viable set of standards for the new wafers.

Though TSMC, the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer, has recently entered into an agreement with two other Taiwanese chip makers to build $14.7 billion worth of new 300mm fabs, the idea of further progress and efficiency for the future has not been brushed aside. Moving from the current 300mm to the planned 450mm platters will save more money, more energy and cause less pollution overall, as well as allow the industry to pile more microchips into a single wafer.

The last standards change for wafer manufacturing was in 2001, when production was transitioned from the 1991-originated 200mm to the present 300mm discs. The trio plan to have the new standard and fabs online by 2012, making the transitions nearly a decade apart each.

Not only will the larger wafers allow manufacturers more overall efficiency in the fabs, with the ever-falling footprint of transistors, almost exponentially more microchips should come from each wafer. Intel recently moved from a 65nm to 45nm architecture, while TSMC moved its chips from 65nm to 40nm. Further gains will no doubt be made by the time the 450mm fabs go live, further enabling what looks like will become a multi-core revolution in the near future.

The three companies are hoping to create a smooth transition to the new wafers by working together on the new standards. The overall attitude is that the change is necessary to keep the industry efficient and profitable.  Not only will it benefit them in the future, sharing the cost of research and development will certainly keep their accountants happier until then.

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RE: Rock on!
By omnicronx on 5/7/2008 9:56:47 AM , Rating: 2
more energy and cause less pollution overall, as well as allow the industry to pile more microchips into a single wafer.
Would this not lower efficiency though too?

RE: Rock on!
By MrBlastman on 5/7/2008 10:03:50 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think it would, but instead increase it due to it probably taking just as long to break apart a 300 mm board vs. a 450 mm board.

You'd have less boards to break apart in the same amount of time, thus leading to a higher volume of overall chips because you can squeeze more in to the same batch.

That is just a theory - I don't know anything at all about microprocessor plants.

RE: Rock on!
By masher2 on 5/7/2008 10:12:11 AM , Rating: 5
You also reduce waste around the edge of the wafer, as a larger circle has a smaller percentage of its total area lost to curvature.

RE: Rock on!
By omnicronx on 5/7/2008 10:20:24 AM , Rating: 2
How is it a smaller percentage of area lost? Wouldnt the ratio stay the same. I think I may need a coffee.. or more school..

RE: Rock on!
By masher2 on 5/7/2008 10:31:11 AM , Rating: 3
I doubt you need more school; I simply didn't phrase myself clearly enough. The objective in wafer fabrication is to cover a circle with a "carpet" of smaller squares. The squares themselves are the individual chip dice, and are independent of the circle size.

Obviously the larger the circle, the more of these smaller squares one can cut from it. But a larger circle also loses a smaller percentage of its total area to waste, as surface area grows by the square of the radius, whereas circumference grows linearly, i.e. the portion along the edge that's not large enough for a full square grows slower than the total area of the wafer itself.

RE: Rock on!
By Ajax9000 on 5/7/2008 8:45:28 PM , Rating: 2
A good visual example of wastage using large digial camera sensors.

RE: Rock on!
By eye smite on 5/7/2008 10:05:20 AM , Rating: 1
I'm betting their process has been refined to the point where little or no efficiency loss will be noticed, but that's a speculation. It's just interesting that they're working on this aspect of the whole process now instead of just the chips they make and how to refine them. We'll just have to see what this all yields.

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