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Let's pick a node, say 45nm. How many wafer fabs are there worldwide that can produce chips with that resolution? Tens? Hundreds? And does this mean that producing equipment for them is almost a cottage industry with very little in the way of economies of scale?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since the days of about 100nm, I'm not sure it's as high as the tens... \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Drummond Dec 11 '15 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ A convenient map for Intel: download.intel.com/newsroom/kits/22nm/pdfs/… ; as to the equipment, it's not exactly a cottage industry, but it's definitely like the other tooling industries in that runs tend to be small. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Dec 11 '15 at 15:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is nothing to do with electronic design. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller Dec 11 '15 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Equipment for fabs is not a 'cottage industry' but a very specialized high tech industry. There are specialist suppliers such as Applied Materials, but also branches of big companies such as Nikon. Something like $50bn a year so the whole industry is about the same size as an Intel. It's probably ~15% +/-5% of the revenue of their customers as a wild guess. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Dec 11 '15 at 19:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the question is quite relevant in terms of electronics engineering. The IC fabrication process and its details are generally not quite well known to the general electrical engineer community and I think everyone would benefit from even a ballpark answer to the above question. \$\endgroup\$ – deadude Dec 11 '15 at 21:51
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I think around 10 for process nodes below 130nm would be a correct ballpark assumption. Wikipedia has quite a comprehensive list of semiconductor fabrication plants with some details missing (i.e. process nodes for TSMC fabs are not specified.)

Producing equipment for these fabs, as you have rightly guessed, is not a high volume business. However, it's a specialty business that has a $33B market which is not small at all. The 70% of this market is dominated by 10 companies, as listed in Wikipedia.

I don't think I'd go as far as to say it's a cottage industry.

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