Report Examines Europe’s 450mm Role

Report Examines Europe’s 450mm Role EU Flag

A study commissioned by the European Commission on the impact of 450mm manufacturing concludes that not having a 450mm production infrastructure in Europe will “threaten the competitiveness of the current European SC manufacturing base, including technology development and device design.”  The study prepared in partnership with industry analysis firm, Future Horizons, recommends the creation of a master plan that includes “both a strong industrial commitment and a coordinated position …to leverage the required funding, avoid duplication and concentrate the funding where needed.”  The master plan would also be charged with coordination with the Global 450 Consortium (G450C) and be open international participation.  Failure to support a strong European role in next generation chip manufacturing “would lead to a continuous decline in SC production activities in Europe and a progressive shift of the equipment & material industry outside Europe”.

The report is available here: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/nanoelectronics/documents/450mm-final-report.pdf

Key considerations in the report are the important role that European equipment and materials play in global semiconductor manufacturing.  European suppliers contribute nearly 25% of the equipment used in chip manufacturing today and the transition to 450mm wafer processing may have a significant impact on their competitiveness.  With G450C developed based in New York and funded partly by the government, a currently limited role of European consortia in 450 R&D, and with high volume manufacturing targeted by US and Asia-based manufacturers, a move to 450 could negatively impact EU-based suppliers.  The report outlines a primary scenario where the EU focuses support on equipment and material suppliers.  “To maximize impact and benefits for the industry, a shared programme coordinating the leading European R&D institutes activities could be envisaged to secure the equipment & material industry in Europe.” 

The creation of a 450 pilot line in Europe is one the report’s highlighted options for consideration. It could start in the short term with a five-year programme to urgently set up the 450E pilot line in Europe to support the transition of the European equipment & material suppliers to 450mm and coordinate with the US-led G450C initiative in Albany.”

European research consortiums are developing 450mm funding and development plans.  In July at SEMICON West, imec announced, the Flemish government’s plans to invest in the building of imec’s 450mm clean room facilities. How much of this investment further investment is targeted for 450mm, however, remains unclear, According to imec, further investment, “is needed for the installation of the 450mm compatible tools and equipment in the new clean room.” Imec is currently negotiating additional investment with the European Commission for funding, and with its global industrial partners, with the goal to open the new 450mm clean room facilities in 2015.

The EU/Future Horizons report also addresses impact of the industry’s transition to 450mm wafer processing on existing chip manufacturers in Europe, as well as its potential impact on the entire European high-tech sector. “Semiconductors is a strategically important industry, providing the knowledge and technologies that generate some 10 percent of global GDP… the most important Key Enabling Technologies for Europe and an essential pillar of any European industrial policy,” the report said. “Not having a 450mm production infrastructure in Europe will thus mean abdicating production of advanced SC technologies, which will sooner or later (10 years) threaten the competitiveness of the current European SC manufacturing base, including technology development and device design.”

The most ambitious scenario examined by the report includes establishing 450mm volume production in Europe, including the concept of a 450mm joint-fab model in Europe between IDMs, a continental Eurofab450. “Every effort must be expended by the European Commission and national PAs to ensure that …advanced manufacturing centres in Europe remain favourable places for chip companies to operate in. High tech industries can only close competitive gaps during technological shifts. The 450mm shift is one of them and most likely the last one for the semiconductor industry.”