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Sunday 26 August 2012

Inside TSMC – A FAB Tour

An up to date and current overview of semiconductor manufacturing technology from TSMC in Taiwan. Nicely produced and informative if you tune-out the voice-over slightly. Better access than any Fab tour.
Recommended if you have any interest in how semiconductors are made/manufactured in volume right now.

In the microelectronics industry a semiconductor fabrication plant (commonly called a fab) is a factory where devices such as integrated circuits are manufactured.

A business that operates a semiconductor fab for the purpose of fabricating the designs of other companies, such as fabless semiconductor companies, is known as a foundry. If a foundry does not also produce its own designs, it is known as a pure-play semiconductor foundry.

Fabs require many expensive devices to function. Estimates put the cost of building a new fab over one billion U.S. dollars with values as high as $3–4 billion not being uncommon. TSMC will be investing 9.3 billion dollars in its Fab15 300 mm wafer manufacturing facility in Taiwan to be operational in 2012.

The central part of a fab is the clean room, an area where the environment is controlled to eliminate all dust, since even a single speck can ruin a microcircuit, which has features much smaller than dust. The clean room must also be dampened against vibration and kept within narrow bands of temperature and humidity. Controlling temperature and humidity is critical for minimizing static electricity.

The clean room contains the steppers for photolithography, etching, cleaning, doping and dicing machines. All these devices are extremely precise and thus extremely expensive. Prices for most common pieces of equipment for the processing of 300 mm wafers range from $700,000 to upwards of $4,000,000 each with a few pieces of equipment reaching as high as $50,000,000 each (e.g. steppers). A typical fab will have several hundred equipment items.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Limited or TSMC is the world's largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry, with its headquarters and main operations located in the Hsinchu Science Park in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Facilities at TSMC:

  1. One 150 mm (6 inches) wafer fab in full operation (Fab 2)
  2. Four 200 mm (8 inches) wafer fabs in full operation (Fabs 3, 5, 6, 8)
  3. Two 300 mm (12 inches) wafer fabs in production (Fabs 12, 14)
  4. TSMC (Shanghai)
  5. WaferTech, TSMC's wholly owned subsidiary 200 mm (8 inches) fab in Camas, Washington, USA
  6. SSMC (Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co.), a joint venture with NXP Semiconductors in Singapore which has also brought increased capacity since the end of 2002

TSMC announced plans to invest US$9.4 billion to build its third 12-inch (300 mm) wafer fabrication facility in Central Taiwan Science Park (Fab 15), which will use advanced 40 and 20-nanometer technologies. It is expected to become operational by March 2012. The facility will output over 100,000 wafers a month and generate $5 billion per year of revenue. On January 12, 2011, TSMC announced the acquisition of land from Powerchip Semiconductor for NT$2.9 billion (US$96 million) to build two additional 300 mm fabs to cope with increasing global demand. Further, TSMC has disclosed plans that it will build a 450-mm fab, which may begin its pilot lines 2013, and production as early as 2015.

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