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Monday, April 27, 2009

450 Now, Are You Kidding Me?

The International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) 450 mm wafer program announced in April equipment performance metrics (EPMs) for nearly 30 tool types. The EPMs were developed from supplier feedback obtained in two 450 mm equipment workshops, and ISMI has said they will be refined further

Beginning later this year, ISMI says the 450 mm program will put together an equipment demonstration line to process 450 mm single-crystal test wafers at 32 nm design rules. ISMI or speculation claims that Intel Corp, Samsung and TSMC will fund the project pilot lines capable of 22 nm processing by 2012.

ISMI reportedly claims that test wafer equipment development and demonstrations are on track starting by the middle of 2009 and that prototype 450 mm equipment is being developed now at various supplier sites. It is also claimed volume production could occur as early as 2014 or 2015.

Out of respect and timing, SEMI is not making public statements about the ISMI announcements, but the idea that they are spending time and money on 450 when the entire industry is suffering historical and unprecedented challenges is beyond me. Both Samsung and TSMC are shedding employees and nearly all the chip makers, as well as the the entire supply chain, are in intensive care. Nobody can afford R&D work on advanced scaling, much less wafer transition. Fab capacity is at historical lows and ISMI is spending money on 450? Are you telling me that ISMI members like Global Foundries, TI, UMC, National, Qimonda, Micron, and Toshiba want to see their precious membership dues being spent on 450? Does ISMI really want to publicly celebrate their efforts in 450 at this particular time, when any membership dues are probably controversial? During these tough times, how can the majority of ISMI members support 450 programs, at the expense of more broadly beneficial initiatives such as equipment productivity, energy conservation, and other areas that are immediately relevant to the industry's bottom line? This has got to seriously rankle a broad swatch of ISMI membership.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Revisiting the Depression

When the Depression hit, there were two cereal companies--Kellogg and Post. When consumer demand dived, Post did the predictable thing: it reduced sales, marketing and product development expenses. But Kellogg doubled its ad budget, moved aggressively into radio advertising, and heavily pushed its new cereal, Rice Krispies. By 1933, in the worst of the depression, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost thirty per cent and it had become the industry's leader.

In this nifty article from the New Yorker, James Surowieki also reminds us how Chrysler overcame Ford in the 1930's with a big brand push behind Plymouth, and how Kraft bet big on Miracle Whip. And remember, in 2000-2001 with the dot com crash and when 9/11 paralyzed the world, the iPod and Xbox were introduced, and the Pocket PC made their big push to overtake Palm. When others try to save their way of out of bad time, winners compete with new products, new ideas, and new plans. When others try to survive to fight another day, leaders make their own history.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New at SEMICON West—Extreme Electronics

Last week we announced Extreme Electronics--a “show-within-the-show" that features exhibits, online and onsite networking events, and a series of mini conferences focusing on emerging market opportunities in printed and flexible electronics, MEMS, high brightness LEDS, nanoelectronics, and other areas.

EE was created to give extra visibility to emerging markets and applications for semiconductor manufacturing technology. SEMICON West always has benefited from exhibitors and program content in emerging markets, but this year we wanted to make it the center of attention this year--not because traditional markets are so dismal—but because these areas represent distinct communities with distinct needs and requirements. Many of the exhibitors that specialize in these areas felt lost at SEMICON West and they wanted to dedicated marketing, advertising and email outreach activities dedicated to these smaller, but growing, niches. SEMICON West is already the biggest manufacturing show in the world for MEMS, high brightness LEDS, PV, nano, and probably printed electronics, but it didn’t feel like it to both attendees and exhibitors. Hopefully, this new approach will better serve these important, emerging areas.

One of the reasons why West has been successful in these markets is the critical mass of suppliers and buyers already in attendance. Last year West attracted over 4000 R&D engineers, 4500 manufacturing and production managers, and over 6000 senior executives from the world’s leading companies—many of whom are also entering new markets like MEMS, printed electronics and solid state lighting. Because many of the technologies and products needed in these applications are also used in conventional semiconductor manufacturing, a critical mass of exhibitors also are already participating.

We are also trying to jump start an online community in these areas that can serve buyers and suppliers throughout the year. We are utilizing the SemiNeedle social networking site to establish groups and engage in real-time discussions about technology and business issues related to these emerging markets. The discussion groups may be accessed via the SEMICON West website at

Extreme Electronics will be located on the SEMICON West show floor in North Hall at Moscone Center. All SEMICON West 2009 registered attendees may attend Extreme Electronics sessions and participate in the online Extreme Electronics communities for free. For more information about Extreme Electronics at SEMICON West 2009, please visit