Semiconductor forecast claims spending to reach all-time high 200-mm fab to employ minienvironment approach

ROUSSET, FRANCE—STMicroelectronics is planning to invest about $1.4 billion in Rousset8, the company's latest 200-mm (8-inch) wafer fab.

Located in the south of France near Aix-en-Provence, Rousset8 is expected to produce 7,000 wafers per week, making it the largest 8-inch front-end facility in ST's worldwide manufacturing network, as well as the largest ST semiconductor manufacturing plant in France.

“We maintained our commitment to this project during the most severe downturn in the history of the semiconductor industry and accelerated the program just before the recent upturn,” says Pasquale Pistorio, president and chief executive. “The investments in the new facility will contribute rapidly and significantly to ST's continued efforts to better serve its customers worldwide.”

Rousset8 uses minienvironment-isolation technology, a concept that aims to ensure increasingly stringent air quality requirements of future technologies.

In the minienvironment approach, ST indicates that each stage in the production process takes place in a localized environment, with wafers transported between these minienvironments in hermetically sealed boxes. Wafers are transferred and handled by robots. The air in each minienvironment can be economically maintained at a level of about 1,000 times purer than in conventional cleanrooms, while simultaneously allowing a dramatic reduction in the frequency of air re-circulation in the cleanroom.

Laurent Bosson, corporate vice president of central front-end manufacturing, says minienvironment technology will be mandatory for next-generation 12-inch fabs, and today it has reached the stage where it offers financial and environmental benefits for 8-inch fabs.

In addition to providing higher air quality for a lower energy cost, Bosson notes that fast manufacturing ramp-up, the elimination of human wafer handling improves yields by removing a possible source of contamination and routing error. “The same isolation technology will be deployed in ST's other new 8-inch fabs, currently under construction in Singapore and Italy,” he adds.

Occupying more than 200,000 square feet, Rousett8 is built on a 50-acre site adjacent to ST's existing 6-inch fab. The facility will focus on advanced digital circuits and non-volatile memories and, with the 6-inch Rousset fab, will be the main source for microcontroller-based smartcard chips. The first logic devices were successfully processed in 0.25-micron technology in April 2000 and the fab is producing approximately 10 different products for applications such as data storage, TV set-top boxes and digital consumer equipment.

Mark A. DeSorbo


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