Equipment suppliers 'are too far advanced'

Equipment suppliers ‘are too far advanced’
ISS conference hears: “We won’t need their machinery until 2002”. David Manners in Rome The semiconductor equipment industry has spent billions developing next generation machinery that will not be required for years. That was the message that came out of the ISS Conference in Rome, organised by the semiconductor production equipment trade association SEMI. “Suppliers can already sell me what I’ll need two to three years down the road,” Dr Paolo Gargini, director of technology at Intel, told the conference. “The next generation of steppers – 193nm – is already in the bag.” With techniques like phase shift able to stretch 248nm wavelength steppers – the present generation of machine – to handle the 0.15?m generation, 193nm steppers are not now required. Intel is drawing effective gate lengths of 0.13?m with 248nm steppers on a production process which will last the company until 2002. So the equipment makers will see no return on the development costs of 193nm steppers until 2002. The same has happened with the move to the larger 300mm wafer size. “We put half a billion [dollars] into R&D last year, a big chunk of which went on 300mm,” said Rodney Griffiths, president of Applied Materials Europe. “The timing of that was the result of a deliberate and orchestrated push by the device manufacturers.” SEMI set up a programme called i300 to take soundings of the device manufacturers. In December 1997, the director of that programme, George Lee, said: “We’ve talked to fourteen device manufacturers and six say they’ll have twelve inch pilot lines in 1998.” In fact there is only one: the Motorola/Siemens pilot line in Dresden. Peter Dunn, founder and publisher of WaferNews, quoted to the conference an estimate by Dan Hutcheson of VLSI Technology that $5.4bn has been spent by the equipment industry developing 300mm machinery for the 0.35, 0.25 and 0.18?m process generations. Now it turns out that no one will use 300mm machines for any of those process generations.

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