Big Chip Makers Preparing for Transition to 450-mm Wafer Production
Silicon wafers are the foundation upon which chips such as CPUs are based. These wafers start out as ingots that are manufactured in sizes ranging up to 300mm in diameter. Most major semiconductor firms today have standardized on the larger 300mm size and there are now plans under way to move to a larger 450mm wafer that would potentially allow manufacturers to double the number of processors that can be created on each wafer. Due to the enormous investment costs involved in building the fabs, or plants, that create these ingots, it is important that the industry develop standards for developing manufacturing and testing equipment. Intel and Samsung jointly announced plans to begin developing plans to transition to the larger ingot sizes with production slated to begin in 2012. Generally speaking, the industry changes standards about every ten years with the last move from 200mm to 300mm wafer sizes coming in 2001.