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TSMC Opens Quake-Proof Fab in Second Taiwan Park

Set amidst sugar cane fields and fish ponds, Taiwan’s Tainan Science Industrial Park (TSIP) is beginning to take shape. Though it will be years before the TSIP reaches anywhere the economic power of Hsinchu’s HSIP, it is now the home of one of the most advanced IC foundries in the world.

At the end of November 1999, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) began its pilot production run at its Fab 6 located at the TSIP. The first wafer out was due around the middle of December, 1999. “Originally, we had a conservative ramp up of about 500 wafers by February 2000,” said Ying-Chen Chao, director of TSMC’s Fab 6. “That was unacceptable for us since customer demand is so high that we need the volume now.” By the end of 1999, Chao said that they expected to have 3,000 wafers in process. By the end of 2000, TSMC plans to have about 30,000 wafers per month coming from Fab 6. With a 17,648 sqm. clean room, this new fab has the potential to produce between 60,000-70,000 8-inch wafers per month.

Work began on the Fab in December 1997 and part of the construction challenge for TSMC (and for every company that wants to build in the TSIP) is the underlying geology of the park. A firm bedrock for a foundation can’t be found until about 25 meters underground. “We had to sink over 3,000 pilings underneath,” said Chao. “We learned a lot about building a fab to be earthquake secure from our experience with US building codes for our Wafertech facility. Fab 6 is built to withstand a 0.6g Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA).” In comparison, the September 21 earthquake had a PGA of about 0.13 g at the HSIP.

First of Six

TSMC plans to build another five 8-inch fabs on the property as well as several central utility plants (CUP) and other support buildings in order to provide them with the infrastructure and raw materials needed to run the fabs. Fab 7 is due to start on the laying of its foundation in early 2000. The added cost of sinking thousands of pillars in order to provide a strong foundation for the fabs at the TSIP are just one of the potential problems facing the new facility. A corollary problem is that until recently, the TSIP tended to flood during a heavy rainfall. “A system of drainage canals and holding ponds for the runoff have been installed,” said Chao.

Ironically, the TSIP also may suffer in the future from a lack of water. It currently does not have access to a large amount of water from reservoirs. A new reservoir is planned for the area but the Taiwanese government’s track record on completing large infrastructure projects on time has not been good in recent years. According to Chao, an adequate supply of water is not a problem in the TSIP at this time, however when there are five or six fabs running at full production then there may be some problems. Also, fabs now have very extensive water recycling systems in place which helps ease the shortage.

Problems Solved

The biggest problem for fabs opening in the TSIP at the moment is sufficient labor. This is yet another irony of the TSIP since one of the main reasons for its location is to take advantage of the large pool of labor in southern Taiwan. Chao is taking a three pronged approach to hiring and training the 1,400 engineers he will eventually need when fully operational. “About one third of my staff I’ve hired from inside TSMC fabs in Hsinchu,” said Chao. “Many of these people are originally from southern Taiwan and welcome the opportunity to work closer to their extended families. Another third of the staff we train for six months at a Hsinchu fab and then transfer them down here. The final third we train here internally.”

Integrating new employees is just one of the ways Chao has been able to ramp up the fab. “If you try to start a new fab at a new site, using all new employees and new equipment, that’s just too many variables,” said Chao.

Proven Results

Other planning initiatives include using tools, process technology and methodology already proven at TSMC’s most advanced Hsinchu fabs for the pilot run. “This means we are starting with a 0.25-micrometer$B!!(Bprocess and use proven recipes, production flow and monitoring. When we get a new tool, it has already been verified at one of our Hsinchu fabs so that we don’t have to do that here.”

A second level of insurance at Fab 6 is that they prove a process zone by zone within the fab. “For example, we will start a batch of wafers at a Hsinchu fab, we will then move them down to Fab 6 and finish them,” said Chao.

A final level of integration is one which TSMC instigated a few years ago. “TSMC has an informal technology board of nine to ten people, they evaluate new tools and processes for maximum standardization, “said Chao, “This allows us to achieve economies of scale and helps speed up the point where we have depreciated the equipment. It also allows us to have many engineers in many of our fabs be familiar with equipment and processes rather than just a few in one fab knowing about a specific process or tool.”

(David Baldwin)


(Feb. 2000 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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