U.S. Fabs Slow to Commit to 300mm

U.S. Fabs Slow to Commit to 300mm

By Lorriane Savage

Fear of commitment among U.S. chip manufacturers was the tone established at a recent SEMI New England forum, which updated the progress toward 300mm wafer acceptance.

Although more and more U.S. equipment companies are developing 300mm technology, no chipmakers have committed to actual purchase orders, according to SEMI. This hesitation apparently has not struck memory manufacturers in Japan where 300mm tools have been ordered for shipment into 200mm fabs for pilot line operations, said Ron Horwath, SEMI 300mm special programs director.

In all of its extensive surveying, SEMI has yet to hear of any signed purchase orders being placed for 300mm technology by an American company. Although beta tests are being done, there have been no commitments other than handshakes and verbal agreements. “Commitment means different things for different companies,” said Horwath, who acknowledged that some companies may actually have orders but do not want to disclose this information.

“They`re all keeping very quiet,” said Tom Reed, SEMI vice president of North American operations. “There are several companies saying they`re doing more than they really are, and lots of companies doing a lot more than they`re saying. It`s a race to come in second. No one wants to build the first factory, because they`ll be working through the bugs on everyone`s equipment.”

“The Japanese consortium SELETE is certainly better funded than 300I,” commented Reed. He added that memory manufacturers are the most interested in 300mm conversion, so there will be more activity in Korea and Japan.

In other 300mm news, PRI Automation Inc. (Billerica, MA) has developed an intra tool buffer (ITB) solution for 300mm process tool suppliers. The ITB buffers work-in-process within process tools, and loads/unloads wafer carriers to and from PRI`s new 300mm door-opening load port. The solution offers end-users increased tool utilization and throughput, lot tracking, and empty carrier storage. According to PRI President Mitch Tyson, “ITB is the enabling technology for semiconductor manufacturers to make the shift from 200mm to 300 mm.”

“In the past,” says Tyson, “the adoption of factory automation in the semiconductor industry was driven mainly by a need to increase yield by reducing contamination. Now that yields are up in the 90 percent range, semiconductor manufacturers are looking to identify other areas of the fab in which they can realize productivity gains. The obvious choice is to increase a tool`s overall equipment effectiveness. The ITB product addresses that issue by providing the process tool with a continuous supply of product, significantly reducing the idle time of the tool.”

Eaton Semiconductor Equipment Operations, a maker of ion implantation equipment, and STEAG MicroTech GmbH, a supplier of wet process equipment, are the first OEMs to integrate the ITB for semiconductor manufacturing. PRI`s ITB will be compatible with all SEMI-standard pods and carriers and comply with SEMI`s E-15 interface standard for I/O ports for 300mm wafer process tools and automated material handling systems. Communication between the ITB and process tools will use SEMI E-23 communication to intrabay factory automation systems.

Editor`s Note: Lorraine Savage is Assistant Editor for WaferNews Confidential, a sister publication of CleanRooms.n


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