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Friday, January 09, 2009

300 mm Prime: Now More Than Ever

Worldwide semiconductor manufacturing equipment sales have declined to levels not seen since 2003 and the industry anticipates a second year of double-digit decline in 2009. According to the year-end edition of the SEMI Capital Equipment Forecast, sales of wafer processing equipment are expected to decline by about 28 percent in 2008 to $22.95 billion, and drop another 21 percent in 2009 to $17.91.

Gartner predicts total equipment spending in 2008 will reach US$31.1 billion (down 30.6% from 2007) and fall 31.7 % in 2009 to $21.2 billion. iSupply forecasts capital spending by chip makers on equipment will decline to $35.2 billion in 2009, down 17.6 percent from 2008, the lowest level of spending since 2003. The outlook for 2010 is uncertain at best.

Under these market conditions, chip makers are looking for practical improvements in fab productivity and focused on overcoming enormous challenges in keeping pace with Moore’s Law. Equipment manufacturers are simply trying to survive and channeling scarce R&D dollars into new product and technology solutions that customers will buy.

To address these industry priorities, SEMI formed the Global Equipment Suppliers Group (GESG) to address critical technology and business issues that affect the semiconductor industry. The initial focus of the GESG was to support of the industry wide effort on 300 mm Prime, a broad set of product, process and technology initiatives designed to enhance 300 mm fab productivity.

The SEMI Board of Directors also commissioned a the Equipment Productivity Working Group (EPWG) to address 450 mm wafer transition and work with ISMI on various studies, as well as performing independent analysis and surveys of critical technology roadmap issues. The mission of these two special interest groups is to maintain a forum for equipment suppliers to address issues facing the industry and to develop an organized global voice to influence technology roadmaps, device maker and foundry planning, supply chain collaboration, and related issues.

In 2007, the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) announced its 300mm Next Generation Factory (NGF) Program to support the industry’s need for lower costs and reduced cycle time in 300mm wafer manufacturing. The ISMI 300mm NGF Program promised to take a wider look at 300mm productivity with a broader set of initiatives with some of the work transportable to older 200mm and 150mm factories.

Initial projects comprising the 300mm NGF Program included First Wafer Delay/Setup Reduction, Predictive, Preventative Maintenance (PPM), Equipment Data Quality, and
Fab-wide EDA proliferation.

Since the ISMI NGF announcement and the formation of the EPWG and GESG, considerable time, money and attention has been devoted to the economic viability and justifications for a next generation wafer size. In June of 2008, EPWG released a report that analyzed the economics of 450 mm wafer transition. Among the report’s conclusions were that the semiconductor business today is consumer-driven, and needs to be capable of handling short-run, rapid-change products with very short cycle times were paramount. The report also concluded that reduced cost for 300 mm wafer processing was driven by the use of factory automation, advanced process control systems, and mini-environments (FOUPs).

Current market conditions reinforce these conclusions and call for a renewed efforts to advance industry-wide productivity solutions under the current 300 mm Prime and Next Generation Fab framework. Much of the resources placed on 450 mm wafer transition have detracted from the 300 Prime efforts that could have widespread benefits throughout the industry. Agile fabs and cost reduction are what the industry needs today, not expensive gambles on wafer size that transition that further threaten Moore’s law and the economic viability of the global semiconductor industry. This is what we are spending time and attention on in SEMICON programs; it's what the industry needs to be focused on in our limited opportunities for pre-competitive, and cusotmer-supplier, collaborations.

For more information, see the SEMI website at

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