CHIP FAB TSMC said it has gained approval to build a plant specifically for larger 450mm wafers despite warning about five years of technical problems ahead.
TSMC, which bakes chips for just about every major chip designer under the sun, has been working with 300mm wafers for some time but like Intel it wants to move to 450mm. Now the firm has gained approval from the Taiwanese government to build a new fab that will be dedicated to produce 450mm wafers.
While TSMC has received approval for the fab, it doesn't expect 450mm production to go smoothly for a number of years. Morris Chang, chairman of TSMC told journalists, "18in [450mm] is something we have to do, but the technology is not ready yet. [...] If we can overcome it, it'll be a big breakthrough." Reuters is reporting that Chang wouldn't give a timeframe for finished chips on 450mm wafers but said he expects technical difficulties to last for the next five years.
Both Intel and TSMC have been looking to 450mm wafers to reduce costs. The advantages to chipmakers from bigger wafers is obvious, as the ability to stamp out more chips in a single production run helps to significantly cut production costs.
Chang played up the recent deal between TSMC and Renesas, after the troubled Japanese chipmaker enlisted TSMC to fab its chips. Chang said TSMC will gain "lots of" business in the next five years from Renesas.
TSMC's caution over the technical difficulties of moving to 450mm wafers could mean that smaller chip shops will stick to 300mm wafers until the tail end of this decade, giving Intel and TSMC a major cost advantage. µ
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