TSMC's 450mm wafer production to start in 2018, following delays

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plans to start using 450-millimeter wafers to build its processors in 2018, following delays in the development of the new manufacturing technology.

TSMC, a contract manufacturer of smartphone and tablet chips, will start pilot production of the 450-mm wafer in 2016 or 2017, with actual volume production occurring in 2018, said Michael Kramer, a company public relations staff member.

Industry chip makers have been using disc-like silicon wafers at the 300mm size to build their processors. But upgrading to the 450mm level, which has 2.5 times more surface area, would allow companies to produce more chips from each wafer.

"More efficient manufacturing per chip, means costs will go down in a time when all these new generation of technologies are appearing," Kramer said. "R&D (research and development) costs are soaring, so anything you can do to help bring costs down, is much appreciated."

The chip industry, however, has been slow to move forward to 450mm wafer manufacturing, as billions of dollars are needed to invest in building the tools and factories to produce the wafers.

TSMC was planning on using 450mm wafers in 2015, according to some media reports.

"The 450mm wafer has been pushed back quite a few times. There may have been an earlier schedule," Kramer said. "This production takes quite a lot of coordinated effort from all over the industry."

Both Intel and TSMC have recently invested in tool maker ASML in the Netherlands to help develop technologies including for 450mm wafer production.

If TSMC is able to maintain its product roadmap, the 450mm wafers will be used to produce company chips using a 10-nanometer manufacturing process. These chips are expected to be faster and more power efficient than the company's current 28nm chips, which are TSMC's newest processors to hit the market.

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