Semicon West Keynote Warning to Equipment Builders: Collaborate or Else

July 26, 2004

Equipment builders and device makers need to do a better job of working together or we're all in trouble. That was the flavor of the keynote address delivered by Steve Appleton, chairman, president and CEO of DRAM maker Micron Technology, the second day of the Semicon West events in San Jose and San Francisco last month.

Appleton said to advance the collective cause of the industry, equipment and device makers simply have to rely on each other. “The Semicon conference here represents a partnership between the best of semiconductor equipment the best of and semiconductor manufacturing,” he said. Appleton says manufacturing efficiency is a direct result of the equipment, but, he warns, it means having the right amount of the right equipment at the right time.

Collaboration, said Appleton, will enable competitive leadership in a device market that he argues "is still growing at a phenomenal rate.”

Device manufacturers that make major equipment decisions before the manufacturing process is really ready to go find themselves using advanced equipment to build older products--a costly mistake. The other side of the coin, of course, is that, if the device makers' don't have equipment when the new process comes on line, will pay dearly with costs higher than their competition.

Micron has conducted equipment efficiency studies and Appleton summarized the findings, saying the most cost-efficient memory devices will be the ones produced on the most-advanced available equipment. And to achieve the optimum timing it's necessary to collaborate with the equipment builders “Micron really believes in collaboration and it works; however, if it’s done poorly, it can be a very expensive error,” he said.

Appleton exhorted the equipment and semiconductor manufacturing industries to collaborate, in part, because society benefits. He spoke of a camera-in-a-pill, which now lets doctors identify eating disorders in young children. "It's the result of cost efficiencies in the silicon that make this kind of technology available to everybody," he said.

A another well-attended keynote was given by Paolo Gargini, director of Technology Strategy for Intel Corp and chairman of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).

Gargini addressed the topic of nanotechnology and the roadmap.

Gargini addressed his assessment of the current state of Moore's Law, saying that it has another 10-15 years in it yet. By then the basic limits of scale will kick in, believes Gargini, and the smallest transistor will contain five atoms and measure 1.6 nm. At that point, he says simply, "since it's not that easy to split atoms, we'll have to figure out something else." He thinks it could be 25 years or so to sort out a new path and encouraged his audience to start now.

Gargini encouraged input and additions to the roadmap because that helps to facilitate future scaling. “The ITRS is not cast in stone--it is not even cast in wax and it continuously changes,” he said.

The ITRS is intended as a guideline for the global industry to provide a 15-year outlook on projected technology needs and opportunities for continued industry innovation. The ITRS was created and intended for technology assessment only, without regard to commercial considerations about products or equipment. The first roadmap was published in 1993, went global in 1998, and now has more than 900 members from chip makers, equipment manufacturers, and research institutes and universities.

 Semiconductor Equipment Market Forecast by Equipment Segment

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