The drive towards 450mm is not as unified as it was because the motivations of the three main protagonists have altered.
Samsung bought a 3% stake in ASML for €503 million with a commitment to put up €276m for ASML’s R&D programmes.
Intel paid $3 billion for a 15% stake in ASML and said it would put another $1 billion into the R&D projects.
TSMC paid €838 million for a 5% stake in ASML and another €276 million for the R&D projects.
Intel also paid money to Nikon for Nikon to develop a 450mm litho machine.
Then, before Christmas, ASML’s Paul van Gerven wrote on Bits&Chips that ASML’s effort to develop 450mm has been ‘reduced’.
van Gerven said that Samsung, TSMC and Intel have not pulled out of funding 450mm but he speculated that the programme has slowed because of an intervention by them.
The intervention could be a result of a disagreement by the three companies, because van Gerven said that although the goal of having a machine by 2015/16 for production in 2018 is achievable so far as ASML is concerned – nonetheless it will be delayed unless the three backers green light it.
The problem for the three backers is that they don’t want to enable the competition. They used not to be in competition but, with Intel and Samsung increasingly entering the foundry business, they now are.
“Everyone used to have their own turf. Intel – processors; Samsung – memories, TSMC – foundry. Now it’s all blurring and everyone is getting to eat eachothers’ lunch,” says Europe’s leading semiconductor industry analyst Malcolm Penn.
The industry is in an unprecedentedly fragmented state at the moment with no consensus on the way forward.
For 50 years the industry’s direction has been obvious – shrinking.
Now it’s not.