By Joe Cestari, President, Total Facility Solutions
A major challenge facing the industry in the coming year is how to deliver products faster without affecting budgets or compromising safety and quality. The continued technology innovations will still support investment, and the ongoing move to mobile computing is a major driver in everyone’s forecast. The bottom line is that the industry will continue to advance, with Moore’s Law and economics driving market opportunity. From a US standpoint, we must continue to invest in emerging technologies and maintain our leadership status as an R&D center of excellence -- driving investment is important. We can't continue to afford to just innovate here then provide incentives to drive manufacturing overseas. We must find a way to keep heavily IP-weighted manufacturing in the US. What has happened in New York is a great example. Previously known for high labor rates, now some of the top manufacturers in the industry are bringing their manufacturing there, proving the US is not only an innovator, but a viable producer of a quality product at a lower total cost.
Most notably, in semiconductor manufacturing, 450mm is the next big opportunity. Issues of economic scale and complexity will force fab designers, OEMs and process integrators to investigate all open avenues in the search for solutions to the huge challenges that accompany 450mm. Next generation fabs present new challenges with respect to the design of the facilities, substrate handling, tool connection, chemical distribution, water and electrical systems and other areas. A transition to a bigger wafer size will bring many opportunities – some of which include helping to evolve the way we fabricate devices, introducing different chemistries, supporting greener, more sustainable builds and improving the efficiency of the entire process infrastructure.
Right now, with 450mm in its infancy, no one really knows what to expect, especially with regards to tool installation and hook up as design packages aren’t ready yet and in some cases the tools don’t even exist. The switch faces numerous challenges, as is the nature of the business. Competing vendors will no longer have to work only with the manufacturer, but with each other to settle a standard platform, an approach that could be challenging, yet beneficial all around. There has been a need for closer collaboration throughout the semiconductor industry for some time, starting from the facility construction process. The entire industry would benefit if suppliers were more integrated in the supply chain; and our goal of delivering products faster without affecting budgets or compromising safety and quality could be better realized.