Chip makers at risk

Chip makers at risk
David Manners A sharp rise in the cost of chip manufacturing may soon see several companies having to drop out because they can not afford it. According to The McLean Report published by Bill McLean, president of IC Insights of Arizona, the cost of cleanrooms will go up three times in the first decade of the new Millennium, the cost of steppers will go up almost three times while the cost of unprocessed wafers will go up between nine and 17 times. Constructing a cleanroom capable of fabricating 0.18?m linewidths on 8in. wafers in the year 2000 is expected to cost from $5,000 per sq. ft. to $15,000 per sq. ft. for fabricating 0.10?m linewidths on 12in. wafers in 2010. Stepper costs are on a similarly escalating trend. For 0.35?m processing a stepper costs only $5m, by the time 0.20?m steppers became available the cost was $9.5m but, in 2010, when manufacturers will need to be processing 0.10?m linewidths on 12in. wafers, steppers will cost $24m each, said McLean. Currently 12in. wafers cost $900 but once in full production the cost figure is expected to be $400. This is still a substantial increase on today’s cost of a raw 8in. wafer of $55. These and a thousand other costs are expected to see the price of a fab increasing by 15 per cent a year through the next decade. McLean reckons that today’s fab costing $1.5bn will rise to $2.5bn in the early 2000s and $6bn by 2010. One solution to escalating costs is to cut ramp-up time. Whereas 0.8?m fabs took 36 months to ramp from first silicon to full production, quarter micron fabs took only 15 months, and 0.18?m fabs should take 12 months. Another problem facing chip-makers is that biological viruses may start knocking out chips. That is because a defect in a wafer larger than half the minimum processed feature size will kill it. With the 0.10?m processes of 2010, viruses at 0.05?m and greater diameter will be chip-killers.


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