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Semiconductor manufacturing using 300mm wafers will see production nearly double from 2010 to 2015 as chip producers increasingly employ them for older, more mature products, according to the IHS iSuppli.

By 2015, foundries and integrated device manufacturers (IDM) will produce 8753 million square inches of silicon on 300mm wafers, up from 4799.4 million in 2010, equivalent to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8% during the five-year period. This year alone, IDMs will produce some 5608.5 million square inches of silicon on 300mm wafers.

“Initially, 300mm wafers were employed only for the most advanced products. However, that’s been changing over the course of the past two years, with both foundries and IDMs having determined that 300mm wafers represent the most cost-effective manufacturing method for mature products. As a result, IHS forecasts a new period of rapid growth for 300mm wafers," said Len Jelinek, research director and analyst for semiconductor manufacturing at IHS.

For semiconductor makers using mature technologies, high-volume 300mm wafer manufacturing is the key to success. But as this ramps up, the prospect of moving to the next level the 450mm wafer - now is being raised, following discussions during the past few years among key suppliers about a potential transition.

From a wafer manufacturer’s perspective, the transition to 450mm represents the most logical approach to achieve the cost reductions necessary to stay on track with Moore’s Law, which stipulates that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles every two years, according to IHS iSuppli.

Nonetheless, major questions remain regarding the benefits and costs of adopting the next-generation wafer size. For instance, it’s still unknown if semiconductor manufacturers, tool suppliers and silicon suppliers can profit from 450mm wafers - all signs point otherwise. Yet this does not mean that some of the leading companies won’t undertake the transition, which IHS anticipates will begin in 2015 regardless of the economics involved. Already, several industry leaders, including Intel Corp. and, based on unofficial information, TSMC, are building facilities in preparation for alpha tool installation.

Tags: Semiconductor, Intel, TSMC, Samsung, 450mm

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