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Metro450 Conference 2014 discusses all things 450mm wafers!


Thanks to the Enable450 newsletter, sent out by Malcolm Penn, CEO, Future Horizons, here is a piece on the Metro450 Conference 2014, held earlier this year in Israel.

450Metro450 is an Israel-based consortium with the goal of helping the metrology companies advance in their fields. The consortium’s members include metrology and related companies, as well as academics who support these companies by performing basic research.

The conference was sponsored by the Israeli Chief Scientist Office, by Applied Materials Israel and by Intel. There were several goals for the conference: to provide an opportunity for industry leaders as well as academicians to meet and discuss the latest developments in the world of metrology, to present these advances to audiences which would normally not be privy to such information, and to learn more about the international effort in 450mm wafer technology.

Over 200 people attended this conference from Israeli companies and academia, as well as from Europe and the United States. Israeli companies included Applied Materials, Jordan Valley, Nova, KLA, Zeiss Israel, and others. Academic members included researchers from the leading Israeli universities, including the Technion, Tel-Aviv U. and Haifa U. European companies were represented by ENIAC, as well as large corporations such as ASML as well SME-based companies. The G450C consortium, based in Albany, N.Y. was also well represented at this conference.

Some of the highlights of the conference included scientific discussions of different metrology methods, and their adjunct requirements, such as improved rapid wafer movement, improved sampling methods and fast computing. Presentations also included an overview of the advances necessary to move the industry forward, optical CD metrology, x-ray metrology, and novel piezo-based wafer movement.

A panel discussed various broad industry trends, including the timeline of 450mm wafers, European programs and the Israeli programs. International speakers discussed the European technology model, risk mitigation of 450 through collaborations, 450 collaborative projects under ENIAC, 450mm wafer movement challenges and metrology challenges beyond 14nm.

This second annual Metro450 conference took place this January at the Technion, Israel.

3D remains central theme for Applied in 2014!

February 10, 2014 Comments off

Om Nalamasu

Om Nalamasu

Following a host of forecasts for 2014, it is now the turn of Applied Materials with its forecast for the year. First, I asked Om Nalamasu, senior VP, CTO, Applied Materials regarding the outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014.

Semicon outlook 2014
He said that Gartner expects the semiconductor industry to grow in mid-single digits to over $330 billion in 2014.

“In our industry – the semiconductor wafer fab equipment sector – we are at the beginning of major technology transitions, driven by FinFET and 3D NAND, and based a wide range of analyst projections, wafer fab equipment investment is expected to be up 10-20 percent in 2014. We expect to see a year-over-year increase in foundry, NAND, and DRAM investment, with logic and other spending flat to down.”

Five trends for 2014
Next, what are the top five trends likely to rule the industry in 2014?

Nalamasu said that the key trends continuing to drive technology in 2014 and beyond include 3D transistors, 3D NAND, and 3D packaging. 3D remains a central theme. In logic, foundries will ramp to 20nm production and begin early transition stages to3D finFET transistors.

With respect to 3D NAND, some products will be commercially available, but most memory manufacturers plan to crossover from planar NAND to vertical NAND starting this year. In wafer level packaging, critical mechanical and electrical characterization work is bringing the manufacturability of 3D-integrated stacked chips closer to reality.

These device architecture inflections require significant advances in precision materials engineering. This spans such critical steps as precision film deposition, precision materials removal, materials modification and interface engineering. Smaller features and atomic-level thin films also make interface engineering and process integration more critical than ever.

Driving technology innovations are mobility applications which need high performance, low power semiconductors. Smartphones, smart watches, tablets and wearable gadgets continue to propel industry growth. Our customers are engaged in a fierce battle for mobility leadership as they race to be the first to market with new products that improve the performance, battery-life, form-factor and user experience of mobile devices.

How is the global semiconductor industry managing the move to the sub 20nm era?

He said that extensive R&D work is underway to move the industry into the sub-20nm realm. For the 1x nodes, more complex architectures and structures as well as new higher performance materials will be required.

Some specific areas where changes and technology innovations are needed include new hard mask and channel materials, selective material deposition and removal, patterning, inspection, and advanced interface engineering. For the memory space, different memory architectures like MRAM are being explored.

FinFETs in 20nm!
By the way, have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?

FinFET transistors are in production in the most advanced 2x designs by a leading IDM, while the foundries are in limited R&D production. In addition to the disruptive 3D architecture, finFET transistors in corporate new materials such as high-k metal gate (HKMG) that help to drastically reduce power leakage.

Based on public statements, HKMG FinFET designs are expected to deliver more than a 20 percent improvement in speed and a 30 percent reduction in power consumption compared to28nm devices. These are significant advantages for mobile applications.

Status of 3D ICs
Finally, what’s the status with 3D ICs? How is Applied helping with true 3D stacking integration?

Nalamasu replied that vertically stacked 3D ICs are expected to enter into production first for niche applications. This is due primarily to the higher cost associated with building 3D wafer-level-packaged (WLP) devices. While such applications are limited today, Applied Materials expects greater utilization and demand to grow in the future.

Applied is an industry leader in WLP, having spear-headed the industry’s development of through silicon via (TSV) technology. Applied offers a suite of systems that enable customers to implement a variety of packaging techniques, from bumping to redistribution layer (RDL) to TSV. Because of work in this area, Applied is strongly positioned to support customers as they begin to adopt this technology.

To manufacture a robust integrated 3D stack, several fundamental innovations are needed. These include improving defect density and developing new materials such as low warpage laminates and less hygroscopic dielectrics.

Another essential requirement is supporting finer copper line/spacing. Important considerations here are maintaining good adhesion while watching out for corrosion. Finally, for creating the necessary smaller vias, the industry needs high quality laser etching to replace mechanical drilling techniques.

Solar power becoming increasingly affordable: Dr. Charlie Gay


Dr. Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar.

Dr. Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar.

I had the pleasure of interacting with Dr. Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar, Applied Materials Inc., recently. He began by saying that solar power was becoming increasingly affordable.

Dr. Gay said: “Most people don’t realize that solar is already cost effective in a number of locations and applications, and as those uses of solar expand, the scale of the industry grows. As scale increases, cost declines in a highly predictable way for manufactured technologies like PV.

“In 2011, PV electricity is already cost-competitive with traditional sources of residential power in 19 countries, including Italy, Spain and the Caribbean. By 2020, this number can grow to more than 100 countries, representing 98 percent of world population; 99.7 percent of world GDP; 99.2 percent of energy related CO2 emissions; and 99.5 percent of global residential electricity consumption. Areas with plenty of sunshine, such as India, already have costs that are a fraction of what they are elsewhere in the world.

“A common rule in the solar power industry is that for each cumulative doubling of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power (the type of panel commonly seen on the roofs of homes and businesses) the price of solar modules decreases by 18 percent.”

We have now reached a critical inflection point in the cost reduction of solar. Applied continues to drive down cost is to make the manufacturing of solar panels more efficient. The reduced cost is being driven by:
• A decreased cost for silicon, a key ingredient in solar panels.
• Increased capacity in solar panel manufacturing.
• Technology innovation, i.e., ability to cut thinner wafers at higher yields w/less silicon loss.

Dr. Gay added that the cost of manufacturing solar panels is already reported by some to have fallen below $1 per watt and is capable of continued decreases due to reductions in the cost of silicon, innovative crystal growth techniques, high precision printing technologies operating at 3,000 wafers per hour and many more advances based on increased yield and scientific insights. In 2010, for example, approximately 63 gigawatts of cumulative solar PV had been installed worldwide, with 18 installed last year alone.

“Solar power is already an ideal solution for electric power during peak use times in many locations and will continue to get more cost competitive as the manufacturing learning curve continues –namely, that for each cumulative doubling of installed photovoltaic solar power the price of solar modules decreases by 18 percent.” Read more…

Applied Vantage Vulcan RTP — better side of anneal

July 2, 2011 Comments off

Applied Materials' Applied Vantage Vulcan RTP.

Applied Materials' Vantage Vulcan RTP.

Applied Materials Inc. has launched the Vantage Vulcan RTP advanced spike anneal system, an innovation in chip manufacturing technology.

Rapid Thermal Processing (or RTP) is a semiconductor manufacturing process, that heats silicon wafers to high temperatures (up to 1,200 °C or greater) within a few seconds. It is used often during semiconductor device manufacturing to enhance desired attributes, such as conductivity.

Sundar Ramamurthy, appointed VP, GM, Front End Products, Silicon Systems Group, Applied Materials, presented on the Applied Vantage Vulcan RTP, which will help the company maintain RTP leadership for the next decade.

The Vantage Vulcan RTP provides in-class temperature uniformity for higher yield. There are sharper temperature spikes for faster chips. It also features low-temperature control for new applications. Besides, it offers efficient energy usage for lower carbon footprint.

Applied’s RTP is the technology and marketplace leader. The RTP is a growing ~$500 million market opportunity. Vantage Radiance Plus facilitates a tool of record at virtually every top chip maker. The Vantage Vulcan is in place at top chip makers for spike anneal. It also happens to be the industry’s greenest RTP solution, as its advanced system design improves the usage of grid energy.

Innovation in semiconductor manufacturing technology has seen the carbon footprint savings per system equivalent to taking four mid-size sedans off the road.

Mobility and connectivity are said to be driving growth in lower power, high performance chips that find use in smartphones, tablets, mobile PCs and servers. Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) is the thermal process, which heats silicon wafers to ultra-high temperatures on a timescale of a few seconds. It is used for anneals and oxidation.

Applied’s Vantage Vulcan RTP provides a revolutionary backside heating design. Within-die spike anneal thermal variability is provided with frontside heating. There is a 3X decrease in within-die thermal variability with Vulcan system’s backside heating.

Applied Vantage Vulcan RTP provides best-in-class dynamic temperature control. Features include proven honeycomb design with 18 zones, 0.1 percent control of peak temperature and 100 cycles-per-second multi-zone control.  The thermal processing roadmap now enables 28nm node and beyond with sharper spikes and full-range temperature control.

It enables low-temperature regime control, such as closed-loop control from <75°C, unique sensors for accurate, low-temperature measurement and new capability for advanced low-temperature applications.

Indian fab policy gets 12 proposals; solar dominates

August 2, 2008 Comments off

Just about 10 odd days ago, I had blogged about building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)! I had also mentioned how solar/PV will be the next big story in India, with BIPV right up there at the very top!

Well, according to a published report on India Infoline, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy has attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores!

A Press Information Bureau (PIB) release says that the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate the proposals.

The promoters will come up to the Appraisal Committee for sanction of subsidy under the scheme once they have reached the threshold limit of investment, as indicated in the guidelines of the Special Incentive Package Scheme.

A majority of these proposals — ten (10) — are for solar/PV. One proposal is for a semiconductor wafer — from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels — from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.

The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores).

Does the Indian solar/PV story now start making some sense? It is very much in line to become the next big success story for India after the Indian telecom story!

Evidently, Reliance Industries is the major player in all of this, having proposed both a semicon wafer fab as well as a solar/PV fab. Lanco Solar, Solar Semiconductor, Signet Solar, Videocon, and PV Technologies are some of the other big players proposing to enter the Indian semiconductor/fab space.

Well, this is really great news for the Indian semiconductor industry! Further, it comes close on the heels of the announcement of the 3G spectrum policy and MNP policy by the government of India.

A few weeks ago, Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India, had mentioned that taking the solar/PV route was perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing. How true are those words!

Late June, I too had proposed, among others points, that Karnataka (and other Indian states) look at having some solar/PV fabs.

Dr. Pradip K. Dutta, Corporate Vice President & Managing Director, Synopsys (India) Pvt Ltd had also mentioned late June that it was too early to write off the Indian fab story. We now have the answer to that question of having fabs in India!

All of this should also excite those investors looking to enter India. The huge interest and subsequent proposals for solar/PV can also lead to India having some of its own solar farms as well!

The India Semiconductor Association should be congratulated for having made this happen. It is soon going to a year since the Indian government had announced the semiconductor policy. Now, with these mega proposals in place, maybe, we will see more investors in the Indian semicon and solar/PV fab spaces.

Top 10 Indian semicon companies review
Another interesting thought! Last year, around this time, I had prepared a list of the Top 10 Indian semiconductor companies. This particular blog has been among the most accessed.

Perhaps, a review is in order! Besides, several Indian players are beginning to make a mark, like Cosmic Circuits, SemIndia, etc. The list of August 2007 mostly had Indian design services companies. This feature of Indian design services companies dominating a top 10 list will probably continue for some more time, till all of these proposals bear fruit into concrete, productive fabs.

I am sure, with those mega investments coming into the Indian semicon wafer IC fab and solar/PV fabs, most of the companies would soon figure in any top 10 list!\

Surely, 2009 should be quite exciting as all of this means a very positive future and outlook for the Indian semiconductor industry.

Get ready for building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)


Building integrated photovoltaics or BIPV! Hey folks, prepare yourself to hear more about this term and the technology for quite some time to come! Solar/PV will be the next big story in India, and BIPV should be right up there at the top!

While BIPV is not yet talked about a lot in India, though, it may surprise many that there has been a deployment in India, I am sure that BIPV will be doing the rounds very soon.

There’s another interesting angle to the BIPV, rather, solar story. Can EDA play a role here? I will examine this angle some time later.

First, what is BIPV? According to PV Resources, BIPV is merely photovoltaic systems integrated with an object’s building phase. They are built/constructed along with an object, or planned together with the object. Yet, they could be built later on.

The following BIPV systems are said to be recognized:

* Facade or roof systems added after the building was built.
* Facade integrated photovoltaic systems built along with an object.
* Roof-integrated photovoltaic systems built along with an object.
* “Shadow-Voltaic” – PV systems also used as shadowing systems, built along with an object or added later.

If there are more, kindly share the information with me!

Now, to India. Just recently, Dr. Madhu Atre, president, Applied Materials India, referred to the use of BIPV during a discussion. He said that for energy-efficient glass, you could save on AC costs, etc., by using building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). I hope we take serious note of what Dr. Atre said!

Didn’t they say green IT was the most used and abused term? We really love talking so much about green IT. Well, here’s an outstanding example, and actually, an example very few have really bothered to look at, so far, at least.

Staying with India, very few know that SunTechnics India, a brand of Conergy Group, a leading supplier of solar system integration, completed the design and installation of India’s first green housing project facilitated with building-integrated solar power.

The 58 kilowatt project was developed in partnership with the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) as an initiative in solar architecture for the Rabi Rashmi Abasan eco-friendly housing complex at New Town Kolkata, of all places! Power will be fed into the public grid and facilitate electricity needs for 25 residential buildings and a community center.

If anyone has any doubts about the scope and power of solar or BIPV, take a look at Nanomarkets’ report, which predicts that the market for BIPV will reach over $4.0 billion in revenues by 2013 and surpass $8 billion in 2015.

Late last month, I had written about certain steps Karnataka and the other states could adopt as part of a semicon policy.

Do include BIPV in your plans!

Actually, BIPV is very much part of the Indian semicon policy as well. West Bengal is probably the first state to have successfully implemented BIPV in a project. Congratulations are due!

Practical to take solar/PV route: Dr. Atre, Applied

July 14, 2008 Comments off

Solar/PV is perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing, contends Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India. Alternatively, another way to enter this field could be by having solar farms.

According to Dr. Atre, India has a strong potential for manufacturing. The Indian scenario has the talent pool and an emerging middle class, along with the presence of system design and chip design companies. Only a fab seems to be the missing piece from this ecosystem!

Benefits of a fab include: fuels economic productivity, contributes to GDP and adds to national growth, creates jobs, helps set up the other expertise necessary for an ecosystem, and closes the loop between market, design, manufacture, test, customer.

Indian fab scenario
Commenting on the Indian scenario, Dr. Atre, says: “For PV, about $200-500mn is needed for a fab. If we can enter into manufacturing via the solar/PV route, the scale of investment required would be much less [than the investment needed for a wafer IC fab]. This can be practical route to enter manufacturing in India, and less complexity is involved, as compared to an IC fab.” Another way of entering manufacturing is by having solar farms.

Applied’s external face in India involves: Take leadership role in industry bodies; work with the government on various semiconductor and manufacturing policies; look for potential investments in start-ups; work with the academia on collaborative research in nanomanufacturing; be sponsors in key conferences; drive corporate social responsibility programs; and help enable semiconductor and solar manufacturing in India.

Touching on some emerging areas of interest, Dr. Atre highlights that packaging is very important in semiconductors. “We may look at some company in packaging R&D. We have invested a bit in Tessolve,” he says. “We would also like to see the success of the nanotech lab in IIT-Mumbai, and see how it can help India.” On a global scale, he notes that Applied would be setting up two-three SunFab lines with Masdar in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Applied Materials in India
Headquartered in Bangalore, Applied has been present in the country for over five years. It has approximately 1,500 employees and associates. A liaison office was originally set up in May 2002. Applied Materials India Pvt Ltd (AMIPL) was set up in July 2003, and operations started in November 2003 with cost + model. It consolidated all Applied operations in Bangalore into ITPL (~92,000sqft). It also merged Brooks Chennai (~100RFTs) into Applied India operations. Applied currently has R&D centers in Bangalore and Chennai.

Next, Applied established site operations in Delhi (~5000 sqft) to support Moser Baer. Its key partners are Satyam, Wipro and TCS, on various aspects of engineering and software services. In Delhi, Applied has 25-30 people to support Moser Baer, where it has the first SunFab line up and running.

In Mumbai, it has set up a nanomanufacturing lab with IIT-Mumbai. “We have put in equipment worth $7-8 million there, and do R&D projects,” adds Dr. Atre. The nano lab at IIT-Mumbai was inaugurated in November 2007 by Mike Splinter, president and CEO, Applied Materials.

Applied is also involved in the potential upgrade of SCL. “We are working with some other companies on how we can upgrade SCL. We are more at the backend to set up some capabilities,” he says.

Applied Ventures makes investment in emerging technologies and companies. It has funded a couple of companies in the semi start-up stage. Applied Ventures looks at global investments.

Moser Baer is Applied’s first customer in India. It has a 35-40MW assembly line. This is the first time that 5+m2 solar panels will be coming out. The panel will now have to be taken up to the production ramp. Dr. Atre adds that Europe was much advanced in solar/PV. Germany, especially, was far advanced in the implementation aspect, as well as Italy and Spain.

Nanomanufacturing simplified
Nannomanufacturing, as per Wikipedia, is “the near-term industrial-scale manufacture of nanotechnology-based objects, with emphasis on low cost and reliability.” To manufacture at this level requires a lot of expertise, skills, etc., says Dr. Atre. Cost is definitely an important driver, and so is reliability, he adds. According to him, nanomanufacturing technology combines the two core strengths of Applied: nano + manufacturing.

Applied’s vision has been to apply nanomanufacturing technology to improve the way people live. Its mission: To lead the Nanomanufacturing technology revolution with innovations that transform markets, create opportunities, and offer a cleaner, brighter future to people around the world.

Applied Materials is a global leader in nanomanufacturing technology solutions with a broad portfolio of innovative equipment, service and software products for fabrication of: semiconductor chips, flat panel displays (using TFTs), solar photovoltaic cells and modules (in crystalline and thin film vectors), flexible electronics, and energy efficient glass (BIPV). The last three categories fall under EE or the Environment and Energy Division.

Dr. Atre says: “We have the SunFab line for solar/PV. In flexible electronics, as an example, you can have solar cells wrapped around an object.” As for energy-efficient glass, you can save on AC costs, etc., by using building integrated photovoltaics.

Core capabilities
Applied’s core capabilities include: commercialize sophisticated systems and thin-film engineering, besides a global culture. “Our technological strengths include semiconductors, solar/PV cells and FPDs. We have nanomanufacturing technology as the common theme.” Touching on the loss per watt, he says it is currently around $14, which needs to come down to at least $2 or one-fourth.

Applied makes systems used to produce virtually every new microchip in the world, taking care of thermal, etching, inspection, PVD, CVD and CMP. For LCD flat panel display systems, Applied offers a variety of systems, such as PECVD systems, e-beam array testers, PVD systems and color filter sputtering systems.

The processing panels can be up to 2.2×2.5 meters. For solar manufacturing, Applied offers crystalline silicon, flexible PV and thin-film line, or the Applied SunFab lines. For architectural glass and flexible electronics, it offers both glass and Web coating systems.

“We have three key businesses, silicon systems, displays and energy and environmental solutions,” said Dr. Atre. These are supported by Applied Global Services.

Applied’s goals for 2010 include: Expanded revenue streams, to become a $13-15 billion company; increased operating efficiency, with margins >25 percent, and increased cash flow, about >20 percent of revenue.

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