APPARENTLY 12 INCHES is not enough in the semiconductor wafer industry.
Joo-Tai Moon, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics, said that the industry will move to 18-inch wafer technology by 2015.
This seems quite soon given that 12-inch wafer plants are still fairly new, however it is part of a two-pronged technology attack on chips. The first tactic is to get the size of the chips smaller and the second is to make the wafers bigger.
Shrinking the transistors is becoming more and more problematic the closer they get to the size of an atom. However the 18-inch wafer plan is another way forward.
The 12-inch, 300mm wafers used today can yield 2.25 times more chips per wafer than the older 8-inch, 200mm wafers, yet they take just about the same amount of time to pass through a factory, reducing the cost per chip and significantly boosting total monthly output. An 18-inch wafer plant would show a similar reduction in per-chip cost and increase in output.
It has been estimated that a factory designed to make chips on 18-inch wafers could cost between $12 billion and $15 billion to build, nearly triple the price of an equivalent 12-inch wafer factory.
According to Digitimes, Moon believes phase-change RAM (PRAM), oxide-based memory and spin-torque-transfer magnetic-random-access-memory (STT-MRAM) will be the stars of tomorrow.
These next-generation technologies could all be seen as high-efficiency and low-cost alternatives to today's memory standard.
Samsung is spending $7 billion upgrading its plants with a large chunk going to upgrading to 30nm process technology. µ
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