July 24, 2012
Chip power opens gates
By: Larry Rulison
Source: Times Union
Building firm's admission into consortium expected to help specialty suppliers
ALBANY — It's not just the big computer chip companies like Intel and
Samsung that are going to benefit from the new Global 450 Consortium
based in Albany.
The high-powered group — which will develop the next generation of
computer chip manufacturing at the University at Albany's College of
Nanoscale Science and Engineering in a five-year, $1 billion program —
is planning to make the global construction firm M+W Group an associate
The move to invite M+W into the exclusive club — also known as the
G450C — would have a huge impact on the Capital Region and New York
state's construction and manufacturing supply industry.
The G450C — whose five founding members are Intel, Samsung, IBM,
GlobalFoundries and Taiwan Semiconductor Corp. — is working on
developing a new manufacturing process for the industry that would use
18-inch, or 450-millimeter, silicon wafers to make chips. The
cutting-edge factory today uses 12-inch, or 300 mm, wafers. Companies
like IBM and GlobalFoundries also still operate factories that use a
previous technology which uses 200 mm wafers.
The larger wafers will not only double output while slashing
operating costs by as much as 40 percent; the typical factory would
double in price to $10 billion — providing a windfall for companies that
M+W, which recently moved its U.S. headquarters from Plano, Texas, to
Watervliet, built GlobalFoundries' new $4.6 billion computer chip
factory called Fab 8 in Saratoga County. Subcontractors from all across
the state have earned millions of dollars over the past three years at
the GlobalFoundries site, employing roughly 2,000 laborers earning union
wages and benefits.
M+W is also building the NanoCollege's new $365 million NanoFab X building that will house G450C.
M+W will be the first non-chip maker to officially join the G450C,
which was announced last fall by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of a larger,
$4.8 billion computer chip research program. But it will also be put in
charge of a new group of specialty chemical, electrical, mechanical and
other suppliers called the FS450C that will essentially get a leg up on
the world in how to build and outfit the new mega-fabs that would be
required to house 450 mm manufacturing equipment.
M+W U.S. CEO Rick Whitney declined comment when reached by phone on
Tuesday, saying it was too early to talk about the subject. The plan to
bring M+W into the fold was first revealed at an industry conference on
the West Coast earlier this month.
Chip fab clean rooms typically house hundreds of pieces of
manufacturing equipment connected to a complex system of gas, water and
chemical pipes, along with powerful air filters and electrical systems.
The wafers move around the factory in cases that travel on a maze of
tracks attached to the ceiling. Almost everything in the factory is
automated, requiring high-end design and construction skills.
Alain Kaloyeros, CEO of the NanoCollege, said when Cuomo put together
the G450C last year, he insisted that suppliers and contractors in the
state receive $400 million in business from the effort.
"This (inviting M+W) builds on that," Kaloyeros said. "It takes it
even a step further. It opens the floodgates for the construction
companies, the mechanical companies, the gas companies."
The computer chip industry is dominated by a few large players like
Intel, and the move to 450 mm is expected to be so expensive — costing
the industry tens of billions of dollars — that it should consolidate
Those companies that get involved in 450 mm research at the
NanoCollege will be first in line for winning bids for 450 mm factories
of the future. Kaloyeros said that Cuomo will also insist that the
supply companies from out-of-state that want to participate will have to
establish operations — and create jobs — here.
"What the governor wants to do is bring them to New York," Kaloyeros said.