TSMC to make FinFETs in 450-mm fab

TSMC to make FinFETs in 450-mm fab.

At the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference here, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) outlined more details about its 450-mm fab plans. SAN JOSE, Calif. – At the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference here, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) outlined more details about its 450-mm fab plans.

The silicon foundry giant hopes to process 14-nm FinFET devices in full production on 450-mm wafers by 2015 or 2016, said Shang-Yi Chiang, senior vice president of R&D at TSMC.

As reported, Intel, Samsung and TSMC are pushing hard for 450-mm fabs. Intel has already announced two ”450-mm ready’’ fabs. The fab tool vendors are warming up to 450-mm development, but most are still behind schedule with the technology. Some believe that 450-mm will cause confusion in the supply chain.

Recently, TSMC said it plans to install its first 450-mm line in Taiwan by 2013 to 2014.  It will process wafers at the 20-nm node on 450-mm substrates. Many of the details were not disclosed when TSMC made that initial announcement.

In an interview at SPIE after his keynote, Chiang elaborated on those plans. 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.

Then, TSMC plans to bring up its first 450-mm production fab in Taichung, Taiwan, which will process devices at the 14-nm node. The Taichung plant is called Fab 15.

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, the company will produce 14-nm FinFETs in production in Fab 15. Production is slated for 2015 to 2016.

The TSMC technologist said 450-mm wafers enable a 2.25- to 2.40-fold productivity gain over 300-mm wafers. But he acknowledged there are several challenges with 450-mm, namely to get the equipment vendors on board.

At one time, most fab tool vendors were reluctant to invest in 450-mm. Many believe it is too expensive and there is little or no return-on-investment.

Now, fab tool vendors are warming up to the idea for several reasons. First, Sematech, which is leading the charge in 450-mm, is providing some funding for fab tool vendors in 450-mm. Second, the world’s largest chip makers are pushing hard for 450-mm and fab tool vendors don’t want to lose out on some business.

Chiang in a question and answer session said that ”the government would pay for half of the cost’’ of 450-mm tool R&D, but he did not elaborate.

”We see a bit more willingness on the part of equipment makers’’ to embrace 450-mm, said C.J. Muse, an analyst with Barclays Capital, in a recent report. ”We then think by 2016-2018, we will see adoption of 450-mm.’’

Lam Research Corp. is reportedly beginning to invest in 450-mm. Other fab tool vendors are also quietly developing tools, but 450-mm won’t be cheap.


Drop in the (450-mm) bucket
It could cost about $12 billion in R&D investments for 450-mm, Muse said. ”The move to 300-mm was very much more expensive than the prior wafer transitions. While estimates from VLSI/Sematech suggest the 125-mm transition cost only ~$250-300 million and the 150-mm transition ~$700 million, the 300mm cost ~$12 billion,’’ he said.

”It is assumed that the 450-mm transition will not be cheap, and clearly equipment companies are reluctant to pay the full tab. We will likely see a chicken and egg game, but we do expect chipmakers to help support the tool development efforts with equipment companies, at the same time, sharing some of the higher dollars received in the current golden era of capital intensity,’’ he said.

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