Start thinking in 450mm

Are your semiconductor operations a candidate for conversion for 450mm? Can you afford to convert to 450mm? Can you afford not to? If you choose to convert, how much is it going to cost you and how long is it going to take you? Blogger Terry Behrens, CH2M HILL, sets up the change to 450mm wafers for semiconductor manufacturing fab owners.

June 8, 2011 — Hear that rumble in the distance? It’s the migration to 450mm wafers, the next sea change in semiconductor manufacturing.

And like the changes that preceded it — especially 200 to 300mm — the move to 450mm is surrounded by conjecture, guesstimates, and fear of the unknown.

Each evolutionary step had its challenges, although 450mm presents a new level of complexity.

With the move to 450mm, it’s really the technology that’s changing. Line widths are atomic layer now, as opposed to microns. Earlier we focused on contamination in the facility. Then it migrated to what was going on in the tool. Now it’s down to the chemistry and material sciences.

Some observers say 450mm will arrive in Q1 2012; others put the date further out. In the meantime, there is plenty of speculation about a multitude of issues when compared to 300mm: the multiplier, scalar value, building configuration, sub-fab space, utilities per square foot, consumptions, specialty gasses, and more.

I spent two years traveling the world to consult with major manufacturers about issues related to the 300mm conversion. Owners considering the move to 450mm have to start by answering structural questions related to building configuration, ceiling height, floor loading, and move-in paths. For example, an extreme ultraviolet (EVU) lithography tool requires a larger move-in path, increased raised-floor-to-bottom-ceiling clear height, and greater fab floor or ceiling loading capacity. New fabs might need to be constructed slab-on-grade, much like the big NASA clean rooms.

Regarding utilities, the need for extra capacity is a certainty. One key issue is the question of peak versus average flow. With larger tools, will the increase in peak flow impact the system’s ability to supply necessary resources?

All these design considerations have an associated cost factor. Fab owners have to ask: can I realistically convert an existing facility to 450mm? Where are the cost points to make that a reality? For some 300mm facilities, the conversion may not pencil out, in the same way that a lot of 200mm facilities couldn’t be converted to 300mm, due to constraints of volumetrics and size.

Another overarching question: with such complex technologies driving the 450mm migration, will it be an abrupt, "mold breaking" change, or a phased, gradual transition? I lean toward the latter, but the move to 450mm will spur consolidation in the industry. Owners will be faced with a choice: at what point does it make sense to produce at 450mm versus 300mm? The answer is a matter of volume.

So what does all this mean to you? Are your semiconductor operations a candidate for conversion for 450mm? Can you afford to convert to 450mm? Can you afford not to? If you choose to convert, how much is it going to cost you and how long is it going to take you?

Those that successfully transitioned from 200mm to 300mm began planning for the new technology years before it arrived. If you think your operations could be a candidate for 450mm, it’s not too soon to begin the steps of strategic analysis to assess your facility’s suitability for the next leap forward in semiconductor manufacturing advances.

Terry Behrens is Senior Director of Manufacturing Integration for CH2M HILL and the former manager of the industrial engineering department for CH2M HILL’s Industrial & Advanced Technology business group. He was extensively involved in the semiconductor industry’s transition from 200mm to 300mm manufacturing technology. He has performed many projects involving application of advanced manufacturing integration technologies and techniques to improve the performance of high-technology manufacturing facilities in Asia and the U.S. He is extensively experienced in the areas of research and development, long-range planning, construction sequencing, microcontamination control, process flow analysis, automation strategies, facilities planning, workstation concepts, and tool selection and design.

Also read: The economic realities of 450mm by John Ellis, SEMI 

And see Behrens’ colleagues’ blogs: Ralph Williams’ blog on water use in solar cell manufacturing facilities: Solar cell makers should consider another (potentially) renewable resource: Water use

and Steve Blaine’s blog on tagging equipment for an organized PV fab: Scaling-up PV fabs? Make tagging your friend


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