by Anton Shilov
09/05/2012 | 11:24 PM
Although Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is showing a lot of interest towards the next-generation tools that will be used to process 450mm wafers and even made a strategic investment into ASML, a provider of lithography tools, it looks like actual production of chips using large wafers is still six years off at TSMC.
TSMC now expects to begin running pilot 450mm lines in 2016 or 2017, said J.K.Wang, TSMC's vice president for operations, at a press event ahead of the Semicon Taiwan trade-show, reports China Economic News Service. TSMC's roadmap for transition to 450mm had been reportedly completed and the company intends to start making commercial chips on 450mm wafers sometimes in 2018. Apparently, the new plan is much more conservative than those outlined by the company's executives in 2010 and 2011.
Last year TSMC said it would build the first pilot production line at its Fab12 phase 6 (with 20nm technology) that processes 450mm wafers in 2013 - 2014 timeframe and would start mass production of semiconductors on 450mm wafers in 2015 - 2016.
It appears that TSMC has delayed its 450mm plans by two years and will now use 450mm wafers in combination with 10nm-class process technology with FinFET transistors. According to Bin Lin, TSMC’s vice president for research and development, TSMC will use the legacy immersion lithography technology on its 10nm and 16nm transistors as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is still immature. Only production technologies thinner than 10nm will use EUV or multi e-beam lithography technology. By contrast, Intel Corp. wants to deploy both 450mm wafers and EUV at the same time.
The reasons why TSMC pushes back its 450mm fabs are unclear. Intel is constructing a 450mm-ready factory at the moment. It is unknown when ASML plans to make its 450mm lithography equipment ready for production, which means that there may be changes in plans of Intel and Samsung Semiconductor as well.