Within the silicon IC industry momentum is building for the transition to 450-mm wafers from 300-mm wafers, although current thinking is that only the leading-edge chip companies will initially make the move with the first fabs generating products in 2017. The concern has always been the huge cumulative costs of the R&D required to develop a full suite of 450-mm IC production equipment and tools. Estimates of $15bn - £20bn have been made. Last month progress was made with the announcement that Intel and ASML have entered into agreements intended to accelerate the development of 450-mm wafer technology and extreme ultra-violet lithography. The investments including R&D and product developments will total approximately $4.1 billion. The objective is to shorten the schedule for deploying the lithography equipment supporting 450-mm technologies by as much as two years.
This month also saw KLA Tencor announce that their Surfscan wafer defect inspection tool is capable of handling and inspecting 450-mm wafers.