Even though many have expected fabs that process 450mm wafers to start production in the middle of this decade, evidences mount that such factories will only become operational towards the end of the decade.
Trevor Yancey, an analyst with IC Insights, said that the recent economic recession affected the semiconductor industry so significantly that 450mm production has been delayed at least to 2017 or 2018 since factory equipment suppliers de-accelerated their investments into 450mm-related programs.
''While 450mm would significantly lower the cost per unit and increase the output of a fab, the equipment suppliers are not making the investments needed to move to larger diameter wafers. The equipment suppliers did not realize an acceptable ROI on their R&D investment in 300mm tools and they are hesitant to fund development of 450mm wafer capable tools. While we believe that 450mm will eventually move to production, this is unlikely to occur in the next five years," said Gus Richard, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, in a recent note for clients, reports EETimes web-site.
In fact, only three companies in the industry are working seriously to start manufacturing of chips on 450mm wafers within the next five years: Intel, Samsung Electronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. With only three potential customers, producers of actual equipment are not throwing heavy investments onto development of appropriate equipment. Moreover, a lot of semiconductor manufacturers believe that production facilities that process 450mm wafers are not economically feasible as they are too costly and require maximal utilization, something that is hard to achieve. Intel and its allies argue that 450mm wafers will allow to produce chips at lower cost per chip.
There are still a number of things that are ready for 450mm semiconductor factories and a number of things that are in development stage.
''There’s a lot of activity going on in the back channel around 450-mm to indicate that some big news will break next year. The equipment suppliers have stopped resisting it and most have some level of effort underway. Moreover, those that do not are no longer being painted as defiant realists, '' noted G. Dan Hutcheson, chief exec of VLSI Research, in a recent report.