Europe's Semiconductor Industry Can Become A Global Force Again
The European Commission’s decision to spend up to 10 billion euros for R&D activities will create a level playing field against competition from around the world
Several months after the European Commission's historic decision to take measures to hoist the European chip industry back into the world league, managers and experts of this industry come together for the SEMICON Europa trade fair and congress. The event will reflect the spirit of optimism that is spreading across Europe's chip-makers and suppliers.
Last spring as an initiative of EC vice president Neelie Kroess, the European Commission agreed to spend as much as 10 billion euros for R&D activities in the semiconductor industry. The move was intended to create a level playing field against competition from around the world and to leverage further 100 billion euros of investments into this industry segment. Such a huge sum of money was deemed necessary to enable the European chip industry to compete against their Asian and American counterparts at eye-level.
The upcoming SEMICON Europa (October 8 to 10) exhibition is the first major industry meeting after this landmark decision and offers a good opportunity to compare the high-flying expectations with the reality of the industry in Europe. While it is certainly be too early to judge if the EC's measure bears fruit, the tone for SEMICON Europa reflects an industry determined to seize the opportunity and to take the steps necessary towards implementing the technologies associated with the next generation of semiconductor manufacturing.
The EC move focused on fostering the 450mm wafer technology as well as on further miniaturization ("More Moore") and on integrating additional functionality and materials into the chips (More than Moore).
All these aspects and several more are reflected in the SEMICON Europa agenda. The congress offers a plethora of presentations from 450mm wafer processing to MEMS, FDSOI, and Advanced Packaging, providing the attendees valuable insights into the EU investments and program participation.
Over 40 presentations provide insights into current trends, technologies and processes in next-generation semiconductor manufacturing and testing. "The industry has reached a historic turning point", summarizes SEMI Europe president Heinz Kundert. "The impact of 450mm wafer processing as well as other business challenges in semiconductor and related micro and nano-electronics industries will be at the heart of SEMICON Europa".
Under the aspect of next-generation semiconductor manufacturing, the two-day special program under the title "450mm: Towards a Global Cooperation" certainly will be of special interest for managers and industry leaders involved in the preparatory works to establish this technology. It is the place to discuss European and global achievements in 450mm wafer processing and how consortia, OEMs and IDMs need to collaborate to achieve the transition to this productivity-boosting manufacturing new world. High-level experts such as the CATRENE program director Denis Rousset, Eniac executive director Andreas Wild or Bernie Caprano, the program manager for the EU Research at Intel share their experience, insights and estimation about future developments in this industry.
Rousset's presentation will focus on automation aspects of 450mm wafer processing. Based on the observation that manual batch handling has reached physical limits, he considers how a fully-automated 450mm wafer fab can look like. The answer is robotics. To gather the experience and knowledge to implement such a robotized landscape, Rousset proposes a two-steps approach, with first implementing test beds and then pilot lines. A number of EU-funded research projects are currently compiling the required expertise.
Frank Bornebroek from ASML will provide an overview on the 450mm program. He will discuss the progress the lithography equipment manufacturer has made since last year- including the challenges for lithography systems with regard to the transition to larger wafers and smaller geometries.
Another track of presentations that can be expected to receive attention are "Taking MEMS to the next level". With MEMS currently a successful commercial branch of the semiconductor industry, future technology development directions are key to market developments.
The versatility of these MEMS devices gives birth to an ever-increasing number of different applications. This, in turn, fuels a technology differentiation process within the MEMS world. Accordingly, the presentations at the congress cover topics as diverse as MEMS microphones (Ulrich Krumbein, Infineon), micro optical systems (Basaam Saandany, Si-Ware Systems) or bio-medical sensors (Frederic Breussin, Yole Développement).The presenters' interest also lies with high-volume MEMS production, 3D TSVs, testing and packaging with special focus on rough automotive application environments.
SEMICON Europa also hosts the popular Fab Manager Forum where real-world managers exchange experiences and views on relevant issues in this industry including the "Night of Knowledge" Topics include an ITRS roadmap update, and a selection of current industry issues followed by a networking reception.
In addition to all these "classic" semiconductor topics, the event co-locates with another conference focusing on one of the most promising relatives to the traditional semiconductor technology: Organic electronics, aka Plastic Electronics.
The PE 2013 is one of the most prestigious meetings of this aspirant industry branch. After many years of research this technology is now clearly approaching the stadium of commercialization. Hence, manufacturability is the current buzzword throughout this young industry. Topics which are creating interest are OLEDs for display and lighting applications, flexible PV devices as well as organic and hybrid-based integrated smart systems.
The conference attracts high-profile speakers from companies such as Nokia, Plastic Logic, Philips Lighting and Panasonic, to name just a few.