Applied eyes silicon savings with wafer reclaim site

June 27, 2007 – Targeting a cost-conservation angle for what it says is “the single largest consumable cost contributor for a fab,” Applied Materials Inc. has opened a new 300mm wafer reclaim center in the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park in Taiwan.

Use of test wafers has increased to ~15% of total silicon wafer usage, the company said (citing SEMI data), so extending the lifecycle of these wafers can add up to big savings, particularly given limited availability of silicon. Applied says it can reuse the test wafers up to 11 times (a 45% lifecycle extension), with a patented process to recover wafers with low-k films with “virtually no silicon” loss.

“This new capability expands Applied Materials’ opportunity to use our considerable process technology expertise to provide customers with new ways to drive down costs,” said Mark Stark, VP and GM of Applied’s fab operation services division, in a statement.

Digitimes reports that AMAT hopes to achieve $13 million in sales from the center this year starting with 45,000 wafers/month capacity, and push to $40 million in 2008, ultimately expanding to 120,000 wafers/month depending on demand. Initial focus will be on wafers with 120- and 90nm processes, with increased focus on 65nm next year.

Digitimes claims Applied has wafer reclaim orders in hand from two Taiwan firms, TSMC and Powerchip, and the wafers also are being evaluated by China’s SMIC.
While this is good news to Applied and its semiconductor customers, the reclaim facility may ruffle some feathers among other firms who also are scrambling to find and utilize pricey and hard-to-find silicon. Solar-cell makers around the globe have been expanding production capacity and are eager to gobble up used silicon from semiconductor firms.

In Taiwan, revenues from solar-cell and module manufacturing is expected to surge fivefold this year to $1.5 billion, led by firms including Motech Industries Inc., E-Tone Solar Tech Inc., Green Energy Technology Inc., Wafer Works Corp., Big Sun Energy Technology Inc., and Lawson Transworld Inc., noted the Taiwan Economic News. These firms have set up tight supply chains for everything except the silicon wafers, for which they’re paying increasingly high prices — and Applied’s new facility could cut into supplies and hike prices even further, the paper notes.


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