A couple of years ago there was a lot of noise in the semiconductor industry about 450mm wafers but the excitement seems to have faded away. Four years ago ASML predicted we'd see commercial production of 450mm wafers in 2018 but now the consensus seems to be that 450mm wafers aren't going to happen for another five to ten years.
EE Times reports the Global 450 Consortium (G450C), a joint R&D venture involving Intel, TSMC, Globalfoundries, IBM, Samsung, and the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, quietly turned off the lights at the end of last year. While the member companies walked away saying the G450 program was a success, they concluded the timing wasn't right for an optional Phase 2.
Semiconductor analyst G. Dan Hutechson says chip equipment makers aren't keen to support the move to 450mm as they still remember how they suffered from reduced unit demand as companies switched from 200mm to 300mm wafers in the early 2000s. The modest growth figures of the industry remove the need for huge capacity expansion and the fact that Moore's Law is still going strong also reduces the need for 450mm wafers because process shrinks have slowed down the growth of the silicon:
“The equipment companies generally don’t want [450mm] after what happened with 300mm,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson added that the initial push for 450mm came from a belief that chip makers needed an alternative way to increase sales if the industry could no longer keep on pace with Moore’s Law. But, Moore’s Law “clearly has not ended,” Hutcheson said. “What happened is that the shrinks have slowed down the growth of the silicon.”
Between that and the semiconductor industry’s modest growth rate over the past few years, there is no need for a massive expansion of capacity as there has been in the past, Hutcheson added. Without sufficient demand for the larger wafer size, building a 450mm fab would require chip makers to take 300mm fabs offline.