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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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Why these increments?
By Zirconium on 5/7/2008 10:05:56 AM , Rating: 2
So it's a 1.5x increase in wafer size each time they do it. Is it hard to make larger wafers? Why not just go for 1 meter diameter wafers and be done with it? Otherwise, in 2022, we'll have 675mm wafers, and in 2033 it'll be ~1 m wafers.

RE: Why these increments?
By masher2 on 5/7/2008 10:15:06 AM , Rating: 3
Larger wafers are also more unweildy to fabricate, process, and even simply move around. The larger the wafer, the more material lost if it should be cracked or otherwise damaged as well.

So there's a classic tradeoff scenario, with the "best" wafer size for the time dependent on many factors, most of which are slowly changing as the industry improves process control.

RE: Why these increments?
By FITCamaro on 5/7/2008 10:24:32 AM , Rating: 2
I wondered what the Intel guy was thinking on the American Choppers episode where they built a bike for Intel. The guy handed them a 300mm wafer of quad core processors and they smashed in on the ground. I have a feeling the guy was a little pissed even if all the processors on that wafer were no good.

At least the bike was awesome. :)

RE: Why these increments?
By The Sword 88 on 5/7/2008 10:53:36 AM , Rating: 2
Why did the chopper guy smash the wafer?

RE: Why these increments?
By FITCamaro on 5/7/2008 11:42:04 AM , Rating: 2
For fun. They smash shit all the time. If a door isn't broken in their shop during an episode, I'm amazed. I think they have a container full of doors somewhere. Or maybe they're paid extra per door they smash.

RE: Why these increments?
By theapparition on 5/7/2008 12:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
It didn't work. Didn't see the episode, but anytime you see a wafer in the wild, it will never be used for chips. The real ones are always kept in clean rooms.

BTW, the actual cost of the wafer is pretty small. It's all the packaging, wire-bonding and testing that go on later that contribute to the overall price.

RE: Why these increments?
By afkrotch on 5/7/2008 4:54:42 PM , Rating: 5
I just want to have a 300mm wafer. I'd walk around town in a clean room suit carrying it, for no real reason. If anyone stops to ask me about what I'm doing, I'd yell Intel and run away.

I'd love to see Intel startup an advertising scheme like that. Instead of spending millions for ads in magazines, tv, or whatever else, I'd hire 1000 ppl in every large city in the world to do just what I said for a month.

From there, local media will probably cover the story. I'd bet in the first week, we'd see them talking about it on every major news network in the world.

Anyways, I'm just ranting now. w00t

RE: Why these increments?
By Cullinaire on 5/7/2008 5:19:08 PM , Rating: 3
...and you'd be sued by the first family whose little girl gets puncture wounds from the wafer shards after you oblige her request to play some frisbee.

Sorry, just had to rain on your parade :D

RE: Why these increments?
By InternetGeek on 5/7/2008 7:04:46 PM , Rating: 1
shut up AMD fanboi. You just want to destroy a good pro-Intel idea!

RE: Why these increments?
By Felofasofa on 5/8/2008 3:58:32 AM , Rating: 2
Why not just go for 1 meter diameter wafers and be done with it

Wafers are sliced off a solid tube, increases in size occur incrementally because its difficult to maintain purety the larger you go. A 450mm solid tube of silicon is pretty big nonetheless.

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