Sematech, UAlbany launch Sematech North

By Hank Hogan

ALBANY, NY-In mid-July, Austin, TX-based International Sematech and the University at Albany agreed to agree.

That's when, with a little matchmaking help from New York's Governor George Pataki, the semiconductor research consortium and the State University of New York (SUNY) signed a letter of intent to accelerate the development of next generation lithography.

The deal, which will create International Sematech North, should run for five years at a cost of $400 million.

The details of the alliance still have to be finalized, something that is expected to happen this fall. However, some are already predicting a significant impact on the local cleanroom market, New York State, and the worldwide semiconductor industry.

“It's one of the most significant things to happen in quite some time,” says George Lee, president and CEO of the Glimmerglass. The company consults with UAlbany on various issues. Previously, Lee was the director of the 300 mm initiative at Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI; San Jose, CA).

The Sematech North project will take advantage of two 35,000 square foot ISO Class 3-capable cleanrooms. These 300mm wafer research and development facilities will be built at UAlbany's Albany Nanotech complex. One will be complete this fall, and the next will be done the following year.

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According to Alain Kaloyeros, executive director of Albany Nanotech, the new cleanrooms will not be the standard variety optimized for mass manufacturing of particular types of chips at specific linewidth nodes. Instead, they will be able to accommodate tool and node changes for maximum research and development flexibility.

The $210 million pledged by the state of New York will more than match Sematech's $193 million commitment for the alliance. For Sematech, this arrangement leverages funds and solves a looming challenge in the list of problems confronting next generation lithography.

“In the course of our meetings late last year, one particular element rose to the top of that list, and that is in the area of mass blank manufacturing, photo mass blanks,” says Dave Anderson, Sematech's director of corporate relations. “Our primary focus for the Albany initiative is to address that key element of the technology.”

For Albany Nanotech, the alliance offers a way to cement a growing reputation in the semiconductor world. It also represents a possible return on the investment by New York in semiconductor research and development.

The Sematech North project will feature two 35,000 square foot ISO Class 1-capable cleanrooms. Photo is courtesy of Albany Nanotech of the University at Albany, State University of New York.
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“That relationship with Sematech we felt was key in enabling us to establish the credibility, the critical mass and the resources to basically attract and retain this industrial sector,” comments Kaloyeros.

In announcing the letter of intent, the New York governor's office cited the growth in Austin since Sematech arrived in 1988. The statistics mentioned included that more than 200 semiconductor and semiconductor-related companies were now in the Austin area, employing more than 24,000 people. The hope is that Sematech North will have a similar impact on New York.

Nick Nicoson was with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD; Austin, TX) in 1988 when he was tapped to manage the construction of Sematech's building and related infrastructure. Today he owns a company that fabricates chemical wet decks and such. Nicoson remembers the impact of Sematech on Austin, especially the influx of manufacturing support companies. While he's not sure that history will repeat itself, he does give a reason for the old corporate movement that may still spur arrivals to the new Sematech North.

As he says, “They all came to be part of the action.”



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