By Mark LaPedus, Ed Sperling & Katherine Derbyshire (Semiconductor Engineering)
Plans are on hold as industry digests the cost and need for larger wafers.
There was a time not very long ago—one process node, in fact—when the economic momentum of Moore’s Law seemed unstoppable with a combination of extreme ultraviolet lithography, larger wafer sizes and a variety of new materials. Shrinking feature sizes is still technically possible, but certainly not with the same promised economic benefits and, at least for the foreseeable future, not with 450mm wafers.
At one time, Intel, TSMC and Samsung were aggressively beating the 450mm drum. Chipmakers wanted, if not demanded, 450mm pilot line fabs in place by 2016, with high-volume manufacturing 450mm plants by 2018. They have since altered course, leaving the next-generation wafer size in limbo. In the past few months, all of the major toolmakers and foundries, except Intel, have stepped back to reassess.