I attended the SEMI Strategic Materials Conference earlier this month. I cover a pretty broad range of stuff on SemiWiki from embedded software and system-level design on down. But I usually stop at lithography and TCAD, which have a major impact on design and the whole fabless ecosystem. I hadn’t really thought about the material supply chain. When I read, say, that Intel is using Hafnium in its transistors I have never really stopped to think about where the Hafnium comes from. When did someone decide to use it? How do you get it? How do you ensure that it is almost unimaginably pure?
Tim Hendry gave the keynote on the second day. His Vice-president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group at Intel. It was titled Strategies & New Models for Creating an Affordable Material Supply Chain. He is tasked with ensuring that Intel has a supply chain for all the materials that they need. This is becoming increasingly critical since the cost of chemical and gas costs are going up per wafer and they are getting increasingly exotic. Many materials used in semiconductor manufacture just don’t have any other uses.
Intel have a three step development process. Research, which is done internally but also in collaboration with external organizations such as universities and research institute. The output of this stage are the options that can be selected among. There is then a pathfinding stage in which the process is developed and taken to medium volume with high yield. It is then transferred into manufacturing for high yield high volume manufacturing, usually in several fabs in different geographical areas. Some materials are acquired in small quantities (in bottles, or gas cylinders) but some the quantities involved are ISO containers full.
The challenge for the supply chain is to work with suppliers during the pathfinding stage so that a full supply chain is in place when high volume manufacturing starts. There are typically multiple levels of supplier (suppliers to the suppliers of Intel and so on) and cooperation may we be required deep down the supply chain to ensure that material is available in the volumes and meeting the qualifications, such as purity, when required.
Changing topic (well, still with SEMI) the next big SEMICON coming up is in Japan. It will take place from December 3rd to the 5th at Tokyo Big Sight (which is a new location for the show). There is a special focus on The World of IoT, a show within a show. In fact the opening keynote is The Future Brought by IoT, with Chikatomo Hodo of Accenture, Donald Jones of the Scripps Tranlational Science Institute, Tokuhisa Nomura of Toyota and Yuzuru Utsumi of ARM.
There are over 100 hours of tech and biz programs making SEMICON Japan the one-stop information source for the microelectronics supply chain. Plus, as usual, an extensive exhibit hall. Special sessions are on women in business, IT forum, IoT forum, SEMI market forum, 2.5D/3D forum, GSA forum and manufacturing innovation forum.
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