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Semiconductor manufacturing goes green

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2008
Hank Hogan, hank@hankhogan.com

AUSTIN, Texas – A recent symposium conducted by ISMI, the Austin-based Sematech manufacturing subsidiary, yielded good news. The industry is going green, with environmentally friendly factories springing up around the world and energy-efficient tools being installed at those sites.

While saving energy saves money, financial gain isn’t the primary reason behind these efforts, said James Beasley, project manager for environmental, safety and health technology at ISMI. “This is all being driven by climate change.”

PN_ISMI_ESH01.jpgMarket forces also are at work, with companies like WalMart grading the greenness of products. That illustrates what Beasley characterized as a challenge, preferring that to the second adjective in the old joke formulation about good and bad news. There is increasing pressure to report greenhouse gas emissions at all points along the supply chain. That requirement will affect anyone supplying product directly or indirectly to semiconductor manufacturers. That’s a large swath of photonics vendors.

Before getting to potential problems, though, it’s instructive to look at the opportunity. Masakazu Kakumu, a Toshiba vice president, noted in a keynote address that more than half of the energy in a facility goes to the tools – a figure that has gone up over time. A solution might be to lower power consumption when tools idle. Tool standby power consumption, for example, could be cut to half that of full operation, versus the current level of 75 percent. A supplier who helps achieve these and other targets will have an easier time selling products.

However, even manufacturers who don’t sell directly into the semiconductor market will feel the effects of the green push. Ted Reichelt, a principal environmental engineer with Intel, noted in his presentation on supply chain carbon management that the greenhouse gas burden isn’t just what’s directly due to a product’s manufacture or operation.

“You need to look at your extended supply chain footprint,” he said.

For PCs, the supply chain contribution is larger than that of manufacturing but less than that of use. A complete tabulation, therefore, requires looking at the impact of all components – an accounting that could reach suppliers far removed from computers and semiconductors.

In an effort to minimize paperwork up and down the chain, the electronics industry is working to develop a standard reporting protocol. A three-year pilot project aimed at such reporting could start next year, with perhaps 10 companies each contacting 10 suppliers. That might capture 60 to 70 percent of the total footprint, Reichelt said, and could serve as a model for tackling the problem.


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