June 20, 2012

High-tech job-building goes on

By: Larry Rulison

Source: Times Union

ALBANY — The Global 450 Consortium appears to be living up to its billing as a high-tech job-creation engine.

The University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is looking for more than half a dozen engineers and project managers to supplement a small management team that has already been put in place since the computer chip consortium was formed the fall.

The G450C as it is called was organized by five of the world's largest chip companies to set up pilot manufacturing lines at the NanoCollege that will make chips using 450-millimeter silicon wafers — instead of the 300mm wafers currently in use. Intel, IBM, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. are the charter members.

To pay for the massive investments required to produce ever-more-sophisticated chips, the industry must constantly drive down manufacturing costs. The jump to 450-millimeter wafers — which can produce more than twice as many chips as 300-millimeter wafers — is expected to reduce the cost of each chip by 30 percent, a new European Commission report on the future of 450-millimeter in Europe says.

A lot of that cost saving is expected to be from not only the larger wafer size — but also lower labor costs. A batch of 25 450-millimeter wafers — the standard grouping that moves through the factory — will weigh nearly 80 pounds, making them too heavy for fab workers to move by themselves, the EC report says. Therefore, 450-millimeter factory floors will be almost entirely automated.

That's not the case at the NanoCollege, where 800 new jobs are expected to be created in Albany over the next five years.

Those jobs will come from G450C and a separate research program planned by IBM that together will mean $4.8 billion in spending, most by private companies.

The G450C program will be housed in a $365 million building, NanoFab X, that will include a 50,000-square-foot clean room.

Michael Liehr, a former IBM executive who joined the NanoCollege in 2009, has been named general manager of the G450C, and Christopher Borst, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute grad who worked for Texas Instruments and has been at the school since 2006, has been named associate vice president for G450C technical operations.

Borst showed President Barack Obama a 450-millimeter wafer on his tour of one of the school's clean rooms last month.

Another hire is Paul Kelly, a former SUNY Research Foundation employee who will oversee human resources, IT and financial administration of the G450C.

The ramp-up of hiring comes as the EC report on 450-millimeter says that Europe, having fallen behind in its effort to develop 450-millimeter manufacturing, may have to partner with the NanoCollege to catch up.