STUTTGART, GERMANY According to top management of European facilities and suppliers of cleanroom products and services, the market is heating up and the global upswing in the microelectronic business is undoubtedly leading the way [see “Europe on the upswing,” CleanRooms, May 2000, p. 1].
“The recently publicized list of fab projects is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Harald Binder, executive vice president of M+W Zander Facility Engineering GmbH (Stuttgart, Germany), a company that specializes in the planning and construction of semiconductor facilities in Europe. “Rumors are buzzing that there will be lots more, but it's all top secret.”
According to Binder, this current market surge will ride on the backs of the telecom, smart card and automotive technology sectors as the industry prepares to reap the rewards of record sales in 1999. However, savvy cleanrooms market players continue to look to traditional as well as hot emerging markets to fuel consistent growth.
Sensing opportunity, STMicroelectronics and Philips Semiconductors recently teamed up to build a new pilot line fab for deep-submicron CMOS production on 12-inch wafers in Crolles, France. Both companies have announced that the pilot line will initially be designed to produce 1,000 wafers per week, with the potential to ramp up to 2,000 wafers per week.
According to Pasquale Pistorio, president and chief executive officer of STMicroelectronics, and Arthur van der Poel, chief executive officer of Philips Semiconductors, the partnership will focus on “system-on-chip” technology, an advanced semiconductor manufacturing technique that results in silicon chips with millions of transistors available.
The agreement will include advanced process technologies such as copper, low-k and high-k dielectrics and new transistor structures.
With the commencement of a 300mm semiconductor module at its existing location in Dresden, Germany, Infineon Technologies says it plans to expand its lead in this manufacturing technology [see “Infineon moves on 300mm fab,” CleanRooms, May 2000, p.1].
Production activities will be conducted through Infineon Technologies SC 300 GmbH & Co. KG with the cooperation of the State of Saxony and M+W Zander.
The official groundbreaking took place at the end of May.
“The plant in Dresden has already proven to be an international reference location in our international fab cluster and will provide the best basis for the efficient production of future chip generations,” says Dr. Ulrich Schumacher, president and chief executive officer of Infineon Technologies.
According to Dr. Binder of Zander, other projects that will impact the cleanroom industry include: the new AMS fab in Austria; the former Hyundai, now Motorola location in Dunfermline, Scotland; the revival of the Infineon (Siemens) fab in North Tyneside, Scotland; and the building of an Intel plant in Ireland or Israel.
“Future developments in the micromechanic industry and backend manufacturing require more cleanroom applications if this work is to return to Europe,” says Binder.
With much of this assembly capacity based in the Pacific Rim countries, Belgium-based Custom Silicon Configuration Services (CS2) is working on bringing this backend worktesting chips at wafer level and packaginginto Europe.
Just two years after its establishment, CS2 started construction of a second area array foundry at Kortenberg, Belgium, situated two kilometers from its existing facility. According to Steve Lerner, CEO of CS2, “The Greenfield site will be home to a new 12,000 square-meter, purpose-built structure, including a third cleanroom that will more than triple the company's cleanroom area to approximately 6,000 square meters.”
With old semiconductor projects restarting and new projects breaking ground, this is the perfect time for a traditional cleanrooms supplier/distributor to make hay.
Frank Braun, marketing manager of Basan GmbH (Kriftel, Germany), a distributor and manufacturer of cleanroom disposables, laminar flow systems and cleanroom furniture, expects rosy times.
The semiconductor market comprises 75 percent of Basan's business. “Chip makers hold the key,” says Braun. “The rest is divided into the fields of optoelectronics, pharmaceuticals, medical, biotechnical and automotive. This helps to pass the down cycles,” he says.
With all the enthusiasm surrounding the current semiconductor boom, it would be easy to overlook the traditionally strong pharmaceutical and medical device industries, as well as several hot emerging markets. Key market players say, “Not so fast.”
“These markets remain key drivers in Europe for the foreseeable future,” says Mark Dalziel, managing director of Dycem Ltd. (Bristol, England), a manufacturer of contamination control flooring systems, “and Europe has gained a core competence in manufacturing and development of innovative products for the emerging marketplace.”
Dalziel says that Dycem will continue to target the gamut of electronics, pharmaceutical and medical device markets but start to put more emphasis on growing industries like food, printing, automotive and hospital.
With its modular operation theatre, Montlingen, Switzerland-based System Integration Technology AG (SIT) occupies a niche that could prove to be ideal for these emerging markets.
“For more cost effectiveness and higher flexibility it is absolutely necessary to adapt the cleanrooms to the process,” explains Urs Widmer, president and chief executive officer of SIT, an engineering start-up.
Widmer foresees growth of minienvironments in the semiconductor segment, but he also sees increased minienvironment investment coming from medical, pharmaceutical, biotechnical and food to meet the specific requirements of these markets.
Barbara Rott is a freelance technical writer living in Roettingen, Germany. She can be contacted at Tel. +49 (0)9338 99 33 46, FAX +49 (0)9338 99 33 47 or e-mail [email protected].