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Chip makers stuck on 300mm wafers

Chip makers will stick to using 300mm wafers out of which to craft their wares, while the economics of next generation 450mm wafer production remain unproven.

As a result, production of 300mm (12-inch) wafers will nearly double by 2015, according to market-watchers at IHS iSuppli.

Chipmakers increasingly employ 300mm wafers for more mature products, the outfit's analysts note. They'll stick by the format as the most cost-efficient size for semiconductor production for the foreseeable future. If the analysts' estimations are worth the pixels they're written with, by 2015, chip foundries are expected to produce 8,753 million square inches of silicon on 12-inch wafers, up from 4,799.4m in 2010.

"Initially, 300mm wafers were employed only for the most advanced products," said Len Jelinek, research director and analyst for semiconductor manufacturing at IHS. "However, that's been changing over the course of the past two years, with both foundries and integrated device manufacturers having determined that 300mm wafers represent the most cost-effective manufacturing method for mature products."

Chip manufacturers are too early in the process of transitioning to 450mm, to use them to make anything but the latest technologies until the economies improve, iSuppli notes.