There will also be a cost reduction from the more efficient use of the ARC (anti-reflective coating), top coats, and Photoresist applications on the larger wafers. Coat dispense volumes do not go up significantly with larger wafers in a spin coat application so you effectively get more imaging for the same volume of chemical. Seeing as many of the lithography materials are some of the most expensive in the process this benefit can be very significant. Of course controlling these thicknesses to within a few angstroms across essentially a medium pizza will be a major challenge.
Also I was pretty sure the SEMI standard was for 450mm wafers. It will be interesting to see how many people adopt the new equipment for 450mm production, because the up front costs will be astronomical.
Actually crime in the USA is also down.
I am not saying our extremely high incarceration rate is the primary cause for the reduction in crime. But in spite of what is commonly reported about America, crime is actually improving. I would expect if we did a similar reduction in sentences for drug offenders, and have some better support for those getting out of jail we would have gotten a bigger reduction probably at a lower cost, but being "soft on crime" does not help anyone win elections
As somebody who works in Lithography, I can let you know that they have not been using visible light for a long time. All fine resolution lithography is designed around as close to a monochromatic light source as possible. Having a significant spread in the light spectrum was just not consistent to do much below the 1.0 um feature size. This is because of the diffraction spread is very dependent on the wavelength and the fact that the photons have different energies thus reacting differently (or not at all) in the photoresist on the wafer.
Thus broadband lithography gave way to g-line (465nm visible blue) which gave way to i-line (365nm Ultra-Violet); Next was deep UV (248nm), Now 193nm is still used in state of the art systems today with lots of tricks such as immersion (where the light goes into water before it hits the wafer to increase the NA of the system) and double patterning (splitting up the image into multiple images that are combined in the etch processes after). Extreme UV is 13.5nm light is the next step but it is a very difficult light source to work with and the systems outrageous sums of money even for this industry.
What you are completely correct about is the importance of connectivity. I went from working in a dying 1xx nm CMOS fab this year to a thriving 1.0+um fab that makes wireless components. The lithographic part of the process (and just cramming more and more transistors on a die) is not the key value to our customers; its the exotic materials that we use to target more and more bands of wireless connectivity. I expect there will always be a demand in the market for more and faster transistors for pure computation. Its unfortunately no longer where the market growth is; thus the ROI on developing these technologies is looking more and more risky for businesses. What I have found interesting is that just about everybody working on the high end of the industry is pretty confident that the transistors will work at the 5nm-7nm node so there is still an incentive to head in that direction for now. After that will require some radical re-thinking about the materials used in computational machines.
The price has nothing to do with the lack of leverage for the fab. In semiconductors, there has been a massive consolidation of vendors as tools become more and more specialized (and thus far more expensive to design).
For example if you want to buy an immersion ArF lithography tool, you have exactly two vendors to choose from. Both 1 2 of these vendors will charge you tens of millions of dollars for a single tool, and both will make no promises about software upgrades, unless you pay for a service contract.
At the next generation if you want to buy an EUV lithography tool, you have exactly one vendor, with a nice long waiting list (of your competitors) to get a tool. So good luck trying to negotiate on the software patches for the PC attached to it. Also the last quote I heard about for one of these tools was actually over 100 Million USD.
"Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you."
I frequently try to talk the more technically inclined high school kids in my family/friends group into seriously thinking about an engineering degree instead of IT or Comp Sci. I got a Computer Engineering degree and initially did some work in the mixed signal design area of emphasis; but finally settled in a career doing the optics for chip fabrication. Having studied engineering fundamentals first, then moving on to how they applied to computing machines has opened up so many more job opportunities than I believe I would have had if I had gone Comp Sci.
Also more to the point of the article, if you are doing inspections for 12 hours in a row on anything complex, you will suck as an inspector and I would hope Samsung would not accept this as a practice in China (or anywhere for that matter) for the interest of QA for their products but maybe I am asking too much.