SOURCE: International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative

October 11, 2006 15:00 ET

Chip Industry Driven to Innovate, SEMATECH Chairman Tells ISMI Symposium

AUSTIN, TX -- (MARKET WIRE) -- October 11, 2006 -- Timely innovation fueled by "curiosity, imagination, creativity, and passion" comprises the formula that enables the semiconductor industry to overcome its most pressing manufacturing challenges, SEMATECH Chairman OB Bilous told technologists at the 3rd ISMI Symposium on Manufacturing Effectiveness here on Tuesday.

In a welcoming address launching the two-day conference sponsored by International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI), Bilous said the microchip sector has shown the world for decades how to drive for solutions to daunting technical barriers at speeds that elude other industries.

"You have to have the innovation spirit and be a little crazy to work in manufacturing," Bilous quipped, describing the often nightmarish challenges of product mix and logistics management. Fortunately, the chip industry has learned to harness team-driven brainpower to create "a culture of sustained innovation that continues today."

"We cannot and will not stop innovating," Bilous said. "It is in our blood, and it is our lifeblood." This innovating tradition, he said, will one day reduce current technical issues to historical curiosities while creating a future that contemporary engineers would envy.

"The problems we are coping with today will be the solutions of tomorrow, and new ones will take their place," he said. "Thirty years from now, when we have made more progress than in the last 100, no one will want to go back to 2006. Life is good, and it is going to get better."

The Symposium's keynote speech by Michihiro Inoue, executive engineer of Matsushita Semiconductor Company, noted the migration of advanced large-scale integration (LSI) devices from PCs and Internet applications into plasma televisions, digital cameras, DVDs, and other consumer products.

"Current consumer electronics have state-of-the-art system LSIs," said Inoue, whose company manufactures the Panasonic brand of products. With more than 60 million transistors at the 65 nm technology generation, just one LSI chip does as much processing as 17 microchips did six years ago, he added.

This capacity, he said, has enabled a relentless miniaturization of consumer products whose sales will continue to absorb the output of leading chip-makers. According to Inoue, the keys to success in the system LSI business include: 1) being first to introduce leading-edge processors, 2) speeding up new processes to volume manufacturing, and 3) fast-tracking technology development by joining industry alliances and consortia.

The opening speakers' comments backgrounded a day of manufacturing-oriented sessions that covered innovations in fab productivity, environmental-manufacturing sustainability, statistical methods, and simulation and modeling. Scheduled to appear at the Symposium were more than 70 speakers representing ISMI, its member companies, equipment and materials suppliers, and other chip-makers. Highlights from Tuesday's sessions include:

--  An experimental process that turns perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
    into a biodegradable substance shows the most promise for safely disposing
    of the chemical, noted Walter Worth, ISMI Senior Fellow. Known as bio-
    mimetitic dehalogenation, the process replaces one or more of the PFOS
    chain's fluorine atoms with hydrogen. "If you do that for two or three
    atoms, suddenly the whole molecule becomes biodegradable," Worth said. He
    added that ISMI is studying whether dehalogenation is suitable for large-
    scale production fabs.
    
--  Substantial bottom-line savings can be realized from adjusting current
    fab tools or replacing them with more energy-efficient devices, according
    to Phillip Herman of Texas Instruments. Adjusting settings for a vacuum
    pump or an exhaust scrubber lowers energy-consumption rates by 1.7X and 20X
    respectively, he said. Herman also defined a creative, tool-profiling
    approach developed by TI to deduce ways to minimize a tool's power
    consumption, leading to various equipment changeouts -- including a move
    from compressor to solid state water chillers, installation of high-
    efficiency, point-of-use air conditioning units, and replacement of CRTs
    with flat-panel displays.
    
--  An event-based WIP management approach that reduces cycle time by
    halving tool idle time was described by Lim Kian Wee of Chartered
    Semiconductor. Lim said the system closed up tool "white spaces" in
    Chartered's 300 mm fab by 57 percent intrabay and 46 percent between bays.
    
--  IBM's Sameer Shikalgar presented on a range management system that is
    used in a fully automated environment to control work flow and WIP
    movements, resulting in a consistent distribution of manufacturing and
    development cycle time throughout the fab. Shikalgar said the IBM system
    helps address the challenges of managing multiple tools and multiple flows
    with mixed cycle time objectives. "It's a simple concept, but very powerful
    in controlling the line," he added.
    
--  Analyzing the performance and function of work centers -- areas where
    wafers return repeatedly during production -- can be an important tool for
    optimizing fab productivity, according to Yutong Wu of IBM. Finding ways to
    reduce variations in tool chambers, individual tools, and entire toolsets
    is key to stabilizing work center availability, he said.
    
"This is our best-attended Symposium yet, which gives us confidence that we're continuing to address the right issues in semiconductor manufacturing," said ISMI's Mike Schwartz, meeting chair. The ISMI Symposium is a public event designed to share information and methodologies for reducing manufacturing expenses in both existing and next-generation fabs, through advances in equipment, processes, resources, fab design, and manufacturing methods.

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