By J. Robert Lineback, Senior Technical Editor
Mainland China’s entry into volume production of 300mm wafers officially began in late September with the formal opening of a $1 billion fab in Beijing by silicon foundry supplier Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC). Some industry analysts and SMIC itself are now predicting a rapid buildup of 300mm capacity in mainland China.
With the initial 0.11-0.10 micron processes now ramping into volume runs for DRAMs in the Beijing factory, a spokesperson for SMIC told Solid State Technology that the Shanghai-based foundry is preparing to build two other 300mm facilities adjacent to the new Fab 4 plant.
“The expansion of Fab 6C is planned in 2005 and Fab 5 is planned in 2006, and thereafter will depend upon market demand,” responded the SMIC spokesperson when asked about additional plans for 300mm fabs. With newly opened Fab 4 expected to ramp 300mm production to 4000 wafer starts/month by December, SMIC’s total capacity — counting four 200mm fabs in Shanghai and Tianjin, China — is projected to reach 125,000 200mm equivalent wafers/month at the end of 2004.
Four-year-old SMIC completed a $1.8 billion initial public offering in mid-March, and it now expects to invest up to $2 billion in new capacity in 2004. Fab 4 in Beijing began pilot production runs in July, and with the Sept. 25 formal opening ceremony, SMIC officials declared the start of volume production. Initially China’s first 300mm fab will be supplying high-density DRAMs to memory rivals Infineon Technology AG of Germany and Elpida Memory Inc. of Japan. However, SMIC also is preparing advanced logic processes for foundry customers on 300mm wafers.
SMIC’s Fab 6C will be a dedicated back-end-of-line (BEOL) 300mm production facility, aimed at completing the copper interconnect layers of ICs for integrated device makers (IDMs) seeking to reduce their capital expenditures by outsourcing BEOL steps. Fab 5 is expected to be a fully dedicated front-end-of-line (FEOL) facility, similar to Fab 4, which is slated to reach a 300mm capacity of 18,000 wafers/month at the end of 2005. At the formal opening of Fab 4, officials said the facility is believed to be the world’s first fab with rain and sewage reclamation systems as well as power-saving cooling equipment, making the 300mm plant more competitive and environmentally friendly.
With SMIC’s aggressive plans in place, some industry observers believe mainland China could be turning into a hot bed of new 300mm activity after several years of semiconductor expansion, mostly driven by used 150mm and 200mm fab gear. “We will see more 300mm projects. At least two other Chinese foundries are very interested in 300mm fabs — Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing and He Jian Technology,” said analyst George Burns, president of Strategic Marketing Associates in Santa Cruz, CA. “Others are also talking about 300mm. Some of this might just be a lot of vibrato, but vibrato is a great motivator for companies to take action.”
“This is just the beginning,” Burns added. “We haven’t seen anything yet.” — J. Robert Lineback, Senior Technical Editor
The other SST Online Exclusive for December 2004 is New vertical collaboration, government help called for at Nanotech Conference.