imec, the research consortium in Leuven, Belgium, plans to start construction of a 450mm pilot line next year. It is to be installed next to an existing 300mm line that houses more than $1 billion in tools, including an ASML EUV lithography tool.
imec first announced the 450mm plan in July of this year, noting that the support of the Flemish Government will enable the building of the 100 million euro cleanroom infrastructure, and help imec to further extend the investment to a total of 1 billion euro in the next 5 years. This further investment is needed for the installation of the 450mm compatible tools and equipment in the new clean room. The aim is to open the new 450mm clean room facilities in 2015.
Caption: Europe sees 450mm as a key enabling technology (KET). Imec plans to start construction of a 450mm pilot line next year.
At the recent International Technology Forum Press Gathering, Luc Van den hove, President and CEO at imec, gave an update, including the projected timing of the two phases of the operation. Phase 1 is already underway in the 300mm cleanroom, which was designed to be 450mm compatible. Phase 2 is the installation of a new cleanroom next to the current 300mm facility. “These two cleanrooms will be physically connected so that you can very easily extend the space. The plan is that we’ll then transition our core program gradually into 450mm from 2015 onward, and that’s when we’ll ramp up the full flow capability in this (450mm) facility,” Van den hove said.
He went on to note that, in the future, it’s likely that the most advanced process technologies will be introduced only on 450mm tools. “It’s clear that our role is to push the technology to enable the scaling. It is equally clear that the most advanced technology will be executed on 450mm wafers. That means that if we want to continue our role as the primary technology provider, we have to do the research also on 450mm,” he said, adding that work on 300mm will continue. “Our core focus of our 450mm plan is really to be the primary provider for the process and device R&D at the sub-10nm domain,” he said.
When asked how many semiconductor manufacturers would be served by the 450mm effort, he said that it will be “all the companies that want to play in this leading edge domain. If I have to guess today, it will be around 5, 6, 7 companies that will really do the fabrication.” He added that leading fabless companies will also have an interest since their chips will fabricated on 450mm wafers. “They are equal partners in our program. You cannot separate the design from the technology any longer. The times that those communities were living apart is gone.” Equipment suppliers will also be quite involved. “They of course need to understand much better than ever before how their process modules fit with the rest of the process modules,” Van den hove said. “If you talk about the number of partners that we will have in this ecosystem, it will still be a tremendously large number.”