TSMC strives moving to 450-mm fabs

During the TSMC 2011 Technology Symposium TSMC provided more details about its efforts in the 450-mm arena.

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During the TSMC 2011 Technology Symposium here on Tuesday (April 5), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) provided more details about its efforts in the 450-mm arena. As reported, TSMC is moving full speed ahead into the 450-mm fab era. The move is intended to reduce production costs and stay one step ahead of its rivals, such as Globalfoundries, Samsung, UMC and others.

There is another motivation for TSMC’s move into 450-mm. In the 450-mm era, the company will require ”fewer engineers’’ over time, thereby reducing costs, said Shang-Yi Chiang, senior vice president of R&D at TSMC. In fact, TSMC will need 7,000 fewer engineers over a 10-year period when it enters into the 450-mm era, he told EE Times.

There are two factors at play in 450-mm. First, TSMC believes it will become more and more difficult to attract ”good engineers’’ over time, he said. Second, TSMC will ultimately require fewer 450-mm fabs to meet customer demand in the future. The next-generation wafer size is projected to boost overall chip productivity by 1.8 times or more, as compared to 300-mm.

Fewer fabs equates to less engineers. On the other hand, TSMC is expected to increase its R&D and capital spending, especially as it continues to march down the process technology curve. 450-mm fabs, for example, will run $10 billion or so. And tool costs are expected to soar in the 450-mm era.

As expected, TSMC’s intercept point for 450-mm fabs will be at the 20-nm node, Chiang said. Initially, TSMC hopes to install a 450-mm pilot line in Fab 12 in Hsinchu, Taiwan. The line will process wafers at the 20-nm node. It hopes to get the pilot line up and running by 2013 to 2014. At that time, TSMC’s 300-mm fabs will also process wafers based on 20-nm technology. In fact, most of TSMC’s initial 20-nm output will center around its 300-mm fabs, he said. Then, TSMC plans to bring up its first 450-mm production fab in Taichung, Taiwan. The Taichung plant is called Fab 15. Production is slated for 2015 to 2016.

Initially, that 450-mm fab may ramp up 20-nm wafer production, with plans to move to 14-nm. At 14-nm, TSMC plans to make a switch in transistor structures. At the 20-nm node and above, TSMC will continue to use traditional planar transistors based on bulk CMOS. At 14-nm, the company plans to make the switch from bulk CMOS to FinFET structures, he said. So in the future, the company will produce 14-nm FinFETs in production in Fab 15.

Source: EE Times.

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