January 24, 2012
Chip Switch To Bigger — And Better
By: Larry Rulison, Business Writer
Source: Times Union
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent shock waves through the semiconductor industry when he announced in September that the world's most powerful computer chip manufacturers were coming to New York state as part of a $4.8 billion plan to revolutionize the industry.
Chip giants Intel, Samsung, GlobalFoundries, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and IBM have all decided to set up shop at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to work on switching the industry from making chips on 300 millimeter silicon wafers to larger, and more lucrative, 450 millimeter discs.
The program, which will require billions of dollars in private capital and could create thousands of jobs, is called the Global 450 Consortium, or G450C. The new building going up at the NanoCollege will house the effort.
But in a development that could mean even more jobs and corporate spending in the Capital Region and other upstate cities, G450C could expand to also include the companies that supply computer chip factories — the so-called "tool" manufacturers such as Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron. Last year, semiconductor equipment suppliers had worldwide sales of $41.8 billion, the bulk of which came from wafer processing equipment, or "tools," that can sell for as much as $50 million apiece, or even more.
At an equipment supplier conference held earlier in the week in Half Moon Bay, Calif., the chief executive of Applied Materials, Mike Splinter, urged the tool makers to participate in G450C, according to the publication Semiconductor Manufacturing & Design. None are part of the new consortium.
Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive officer of the NanoCollege, confirmed Friday that Cuomo has directed school officials to engage in talks with the tool makers about locating their 450mm research efforts in New York state, including possibly moving some operations from Europe and Asia.
"The interest by the equipment suppliers is another great example of how what Governor Cuomo says about the Empire State being open for business again is a reality and is happening," Kaloyeros said. "To the governor's credit, it's triggering a revolution. The talks are ongoing and promising."
The current 300mm wafers measure about 12 inches across, while the 450mm discs would measure 18 inches in diameter. New tools would have to be designed to handle the larger wafers, which also pose additional challenges that need to be solved.
Many of the tool makers already have research operations at the NanoCollege for 300mm manufacturing. And those that have installed tools at the recently completed $4.6 billion fab built by GlobalFoundries in Saratoga County have opened up offices near that facility. For instance, Applied Materials has an office with several dozen employees at the Stewart's office complex just off Exit 13 of the Northway in Malta.
But the 450mm effort would mean substantially more investment and jobs. Industry analyst VLSI Research says the jump from 200mm wafers to the current 300mm size took $12 billion in spending, and the cost of the 450mm transition could cost $8 billion or more through 2020.
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