Behind closed doors: Updating ISMI’s 450mm, NGF progress

by Debra Vogler, senior technical editor, Solid State Technology
by James Montgomery, news editor, Solid State Technology

ISMI provided SST with tidbits from its closed-door meeting on Wednesday where discussions continued between its members and equipment suppliers about key programs and topics including the next-generation fab (NGF) targeting 300mm improvements and the 450mm transition, including updates on the interoperability test bed for 450mm wafer automation and handling.

Despite how contentious and polarizing this debate has become, in a pre-SEMICON West briefing with Scott Kramer, VP of manufacturing at ISMI, indicated some progress trying to get both sides to work together without the pressure of an immutable deadline. “One key lesson learned from the 300mm transition is that the consortium should not set a date for timing [for implementation],” Kramer told SST. “We’re in the business of productivity improvement as quickly as possible, considering all possible solutions; we don’t rule things out. When the time comes to decide what companies buy and sell, that interplay is the free and open market and that decides when fabs install equipment and buy things. We don’t make proclamations about timing for some particular productivity improvements.”

ISMI sees complementary, forward-compatible paths for NGF and 450mm, with 450mm activities built upon coordinated improvements from NGF and efficiently utilizing industry resources. (Image courtesy of ISMI)

Here’s a quick rundown of the salient points made during the\is week’s closed-door ISMI session:

NGF improvements. The NGF target remains unchanged: 50% cycle time improvement and 30% lower costs. More productivity improvement opportunities have been identified that enable both cycle time and cost improvements at the same time. Equipment productivity improvement projects have progressed to a stage of active supplier engagement — e.g., equipment chamber matching (ECM), first wafer delay (FWD), predictive/preventative maintenance (PPM), and enhanced equipment quality assurance (EEQA).

Maintenance leads productivity efforts. PPM is seen as the most promising project, with EDA/DQ usage by supplier and IDMs as a fundamental enabler. Testing of software and EDA functionalities is seen as critical for enabling and implementing new NGF capabilities; factory operations and environment is seen as the next step (while still focusing on productivity). Approaching waste reduction is becoming a strategic part of productivity improvement. Also deemed “highly desirable” is retrofit of new capabilities into existing factories. Identifying more leverage-points will enable further productivity improvements.

Stepping up 450mm evals. ISMI says it is “committed to continued communication and collaboration between suppliers and IDMs,” and Exhibit A of the consortium’s efforts may very well be its work with the three vocal leading chipmakers (Intel, Samsung, and TSMC) who have asked for a 450mm pilot line ready by 2012. Nevertheless, ISMI is reporting a number of progress fronts with this 450mm work. Development of 450mm wafers will progress this year from sintered mechanical handling of test wafers to single-crystal wafers, with 100 mechanical handling test wafers of five different thicknesses already delivered to ISMI for measurement and evaluation on the Interoperabilty Test Bed (and available on loan). The sag of polysilicon wafers are said to be comparable to single-crystal. Factory testing is already underway on the 450mm testbed, with an undisclosed number of signed contracts from suppliers to demo prototype hardware, with more said to be “under discussion.” A testbed user group is now discussing interoperability challenges, and ISMI has agreed to work with Japan’s Interoperability Test Group.

Clarifying 450mm guidelines. ISMI’s 19-point “unified guidelines” relating for 450mm are being clarified to help them be better understood, and foster early discussion of challenges. There have been what ISMI calls “constructive two-way exchanges” with SEMI’s IPIC Task Force, and information and proposals are being reviewed with individual suppliers and SEMI’s Equipment Suppliers Group (ESG). ISMI also is assessing related environmental/health/safety with the larger 450mm wafers, such as carrier handling and fall protection.

ISMI stressed that it is continuing to engage with the industry and suppliers in several ways at different levels on 450mm: conducting briefings and workshops at industry forums, interactions in SEMI Standards efforts, and continuing/expanding its engagement with production equipment, factory interface, and silicon infrastructure suppliers. — J.M., D.V.


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