Equipment makers set to gain power in process technology

Equipment makers set to gain power in process technology
David Manners reports on the latest developments in the onward and upward rise of the semiconductor production equipment industry, from the Semicon Europa trade show, held in Geneva last week The semiconductor manufacturing equipment industry could take over the semiconductor industry’s process technology, if a trend towards manufacturing turnkey fabs gains momentum. At Semicon Europa, it became clear that several leading companies – like Meissner and Wurst, Applied Materials and Eaton – are considering plans to build turnkey fabs complete with process technology. “We are engaged in discussions with several companies about the turnkey fab concept,” Meissner and Wurst’s spokesman told EW. “It’s an opportunity for the year 2000.” At Eaton, Bob Simonton gave a presentation that tracked the transition from 1970 when ‘the IC company owned the process and equipment design’ to 2000 when the equipment supplier ‘owns the integrated process module and equipment design’. Asked what the device manufacturers’ reaction to these plans were, Simonton replied: “Some device guys welcome the equipment guys owning the process technology, others regard it as outrageous.” Eaton v-p Dr Peter Younger responded cagily when asked by EW whether Eaton’s intention was to supply turnkey fabs with the process technology thrown in. “I’m not going to commit on how far we’re going to go,” he said. “We will go as far as we can add value; I’m not sure doing the entire factory will add value.” The boss of SEMI Europe which organises Semicon Europa, Walter Roessger, told EW: “We expect to see equipment companies building complete fabs. They are already developing processes. The equipment guys go to all the fabs in the world – they have tremendous power and know-how.”


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