Intel announced that it has joined with two other chipmakers in an effort to ease a move from 300-mm wafers to 450-mm wafers, which will enable each to increase production and maybe even lessen their impact on the environment.
Intel spokeswoman Kari Aakre noted that there is no formal alliance between the three firms, but they have agreed on the common timeline and to make sure that test equipment and components are ready in time. "In talking with them, we all agreed we need to make the transition happen, so we're going to work together," she added. "There are a lot of moving parts and we all need to be moving forward together."
Aakre added that the chipmakers will be able to produce twice as many chips on a 450-mm wafer as they can on a 300-mm wafer today.
In 2001, Intel began a one-and-a-half to two-year move from 200-mm wafers to today's 300-mm size.
"When you move to a larger wafer, you get more chips for a lower cost," said Aakre. "There's, obviously, the cost advantage but you also use fewer resources. You're producing larger wafers and getting more out of them, so you're not using as many resources, such as energy and water. We become more efficient."
Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group, said moving to 450-mm wafers is a natural progression in the chip industry. "The bottom line is that while this will require some pretty big investments in new equipment to produce the new, much larger wafer, the payback will be pretty significant -- higher yields, lower cost per wafer, higher production," he added.
"It's important in that it will bring new economies of scale to the fabs. Where they could get around 2,600 chips per wafer with 300-mm, they'll be able to get almost 6,000 chips per wafer at 450-mm. The costs to produce the 450-mm wafer will be higher because of new equipment and dyes, etc., but the costs per chip produced will be much lower," Olds said.