450 millimetre wafers are still a pipe dream

The chief technology officer of TSMC, Jack Sun, outlined the plans the foundry has for moving to 450 millimetre wafers. There appear to be some problems.

One of the problems is the sheer cost required to create a 15 nanometre process on a 450 millimetre and it’s not pretty. The estimate is that such a fab will cost maybe as much as $20 billion and it appears the only companies to have agreed on such a plan are Intel, Samsung and TSMC.

But if they’ve agreed on the plan, they don’t seem to have agreed on any kind of date. Sun was asked to put a specific date on such a move, and he wouldn’t reveal that to the audience here in Dresden.

He said: “It’s an industry infrastructure issue. We all have to contribute to this effort.”

No-one else seems to have jumped on the 450 nanometre troika and it’s clear that the costs involved for other semiconductor players are immense.  A delegate at IEF 2010 asked him about this. Sun said: “There will be financial incentives in the future and people will find ways to invest.”

Of course, it isn’t just the effort to move to the larger wafer that’s the problem. The technology of producing 15 nanometre dies faces many challenges.

A source at another pure play foundry told TechEye that his company believed that there was still a lot of  life left in the 300 millimetre wafer size. Plus it’s expensive.