Wafer reclaiming is a rising trend among semiconductor companies around the world. As of 2020, the market in the United States for InP reclaim wafers and other materials is at $117.7 million and will continue to grow. The Chinese market is close behind and should grow to $44.6 million by 2027.
Wafer reclaiming takes slightly defective or used wafers, stripping off any attached components and photoresists and smoothing their surfaces so they can be reused. The process requires a strict quality evaluation to determine the reusability of each wafer before they go through the reclaiming process.
If you take wafer reclaiming out of the equation, manufacturers must fabricate test wafers first and build chips. This procedure helps identify product defects and flaws before the fab produces the “prime” or market-ready chips. Unfortunately, this is costly because both prime and test wafers must be made from raw materials.
Wafer reclaiming simplifies the process by cutting off the fabrication process for test wafers and focusing on repurposing existing items instead. Test wafer manufacturing may cost roughly $100 per dummy, but reclaiming can bring that expense down even further.
It takes time to manufacture both test and prime wafers. In fact, the whole process of building a single chip takes more than three months from conceptualization, testing, and mass-production. Because of the high costs, manufacturers are looking for ways to optimize the entire routine and make it more efficient.
For instance, some companies are looking into using artificial intelligence combined with machine learning to optimize existing chip designs to build next-gen processors. Wafer reclaiming can help reduce a manufacturer’s turnaround time by allowing them to move ahead to the testing phase.
Lastly, wafer reclaiming helps ensure the quality of the finished products even while bringing the manufacturing costs down. This technique enables fabricators to offer their products at relatively lower prices for the consumer.
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