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TSMC CEO criticizes fab-tool makers

Posted: 12 Jan 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mark LaPedus  Taiwan Semiconductor Mfg  TSMC 

Taiwan Semiconductor Mfg Co. Ltd's (TSMC's) chief executive took some surprising and subtle pot shots at the IC-equipment industry early this week, urging vendors to improve their overall costs, lead times and productivity levels.

Without pulling any punches in a presentation here, Rick Tsai, president and chief executive of silicon foundry giant TSMC, was especially critical about the soaring costs for lithography tools, lack of advancements in fab-automation, among other issues.

Tsai also urged more collaboration between the semiconductor and IC-equipment industries. Chip and equipment makers must "align" their separate roadmaps more closely, Tsai said during a keynote address at the Industry Strategy Symposium event.

"The match to the roadmap is absolutely critical," he said. "If we don't align the roadmap earlier, it will come back to bite us."

The IC and equipment industries must align with each another for good reason. Leading-edge chip makers are attempting to keep up with Moore's Law and are under pressure to reduce costs and cycle times.

TSMC itself is seeking to improve cycle times from 2.5 days per layer to 1.2 days per layer, he said, referring to the production times needed to process a layer in a wafer.

As a result, Tsai urged IC-equipment vendors to improve its overall costs, lead times and productivity levels. For example, lithography tool costs are growing at 20 per cent a year, he said.

A lithography cell, which includes the scanner and wafer track unit, runs for Rs.90.2 crores ($20 million) or more for one set. "That's pretty damn expensive for us," he said.

There are other issues as well. The industry needs a twofold improvement in tool productivity before the advent of the next wafer size, he said. There is "still more room for 300-mm tool productivity improvements," he said.

This is especially true in fab-automation, especially for automatic materials handling systems (AMHS). "I don't know if that industry is keeping up," he said.

He also said that, there are "challenges for AMHS to catch up with tool productivity improvements," and that "current AMHS performance may hamper the effectiveness of future tool productivity improvements."

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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