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Semicon preview: Startup, TSV tools to emerge

July 07, 2010 // Mark LaPedus

Semicon preview: Startup, TSV tools to emerge

The Semicon West trade show starts next week, but the craze has already begun.


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Fab tool vendors EV Group, Intermolecular, Qcept, Vantage and Verigy have already announced new products or deals before the show. Vantage is a new startup in the fab tool arena.

Applied, Lam, Novellus and others are readying new tools for use in emerging 3-D chip designs. Applied is expected to enter the MOCVD segment with a hybrid tool. Semicon West runs from July 13-15 in San Francisco, Calif.

At Semicon, the hot topics will include 3-D devices, LEDs, solar, and, of course, chip scaling. And unlike last year's event, the fab tool market is hot. IC-equipment sales are now expected to grow 96 percent in 2010, compared to 83 percent in the previous upgrade, according to VLSI Research Inc.

At Semicon, Applied Materials Inc. is expected to roll out its long-awaited, hybrid MOCVD tool. ''We believe that AMAT will formally announce a LED tool during Semicon. AMAT has been working with at least six vendors and has recognized revenue from at least one of the vendors, likely for its hydride vapor phase epitaxy tool,'' said C.J. Muse, an analyst with the Barclays Capital, in a recent report.

''AMAT is likely to introduce a cluster tool with 2 MOCVD + 1 HVPE tool, with the MOCVD tool still under development, but able to run demos. As a result of the timing though, AMAT is likely to miss the current boom that Aixtron and Veeco are enjoying related to LED backlighting application,'' Muse said. ''One of the features of the cluster tool is likely to be in-situ cleaning that would reduce potential defects in the active layer.''

Through-silicon-via (TSV) will be a hot topic at Semicon. Applied, Novellus and Lam will roll out products in the arena.

''Novellus is likely to release a solution that includes copper deposition (but a reactor that can handle higher amount of ECP), a conformal flow dielectric and Inova PVD,'' Muse said. ''Lam will possibly release a cheaper bulk etch solution for TSV. In addition Lam might also release cobalt tungsten phosphide product (not connected with TSV) based on Blue 29 purchase from KLA-Tencor.''

Not to be outdone, Applied ''will likely continue to position itself as the total solution provider for TSV with a Semitool based ECP tool along with an internally developed etch solution,'' Muse said. It's ''too soon to call the winners and the losers, but this is where we expect new product announcement focus.''

In other announcements, EV Group has introduced the EVG610 mask and bond aligner. The tool addresses university and research customers' demands for a lower costing system with greater process versatility.

The EVG610 can process substrate pieces and wafers up to 200-mm. It is designed to support a wide variety of processes such as UV-nanoimprint lithography and fine patterning, wafer bumping and chip-scale packaging for MEMS, integrated circuit and compound semiconductor devices.

Another vendor, Qcept Technologies Inc. (Atlanta), has introduced its latest non-visual defect inspection system. The ChemetriQ 5000 provides inspection on both patterned and unpatterned wafers.

The ChemetriQ 5000 platform provides full-wafer, inline detection of organic and inorganic residues, metallic contaminants and process-induced charging. The ChemetriQ platform is sensitive to 5E9 atoms/cm2. It accomplishes this by employing a non-destructive technology that detects work function variations on the wafer's surface.

In another announcement, startup Vantage Technology Corp. has rolled out a particle sizing unit capable of measuring CMP slurries in real-time. Existing solutions take small diluted samples of CMP slurries.

Vantage's new SlurryScope is designed to measure particles in a ''slurry flow as delivered to the wafer processing tool.''

San Jose-based Vantage was founded in April of 2010 by industry veterans from the semiconductor equipment space, including Rashid Mavliev, who is chief technology officer.

IC makers ''have been unable to find measurement units that can 'see through' the density of Ceria slurries especially,'' according to a spokesman for Vantage. ''Our technology was able to provide them with repeatable measurements. We also do not have to dilute the slurries, and we can measure the 'flow of the slurry' in real-time, not just small samples.''

Touchdown!
Meanwhile, Touchdown Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of ATE provider Verigy Inc., introduced its 1Td300 full-wafer probe card. This is the companys first probe card for single-touchdown, high-volume testing of DRAM memory devices.

Capable of testing an entire 300-mm wafer with only 2 g of force per probe, the 1Td300 probe card ''offers the dual advantages of reducing forces on the wafer under test and the entire test cell as well as allowing higher pin counts to extend semiconductor testing roadmaps.''

''As pin counts escalate for advanced semiconductors such as DDR3 memories, reducing the cost of test requires ever-increasing levels of parallelism, said Patrick Flynn, president of Touchdown Technologies, in a statement. With our new 1Td300 probe card, weve developed a reliable, single-touchdown testing solution with ultra-low force that achieves the required planarity and scrub performance without risking damage to the devices under test.

In addition, Verigy recently extended the scalability of its V93000 tester by adding the so-called Direct-Probe solution. This high-performance probe test capability is aimed for digital, mixed-signal and wireless communication ICs.

The Direct-Probe RF solution reduces the cost of test for radio-frequency (RF), high-pin-count digital and complex mixed-signal devices, addressing the shift to performance probe test and wafer-level chip scale packages (WLCSP).

Verigys V93000 Direct-Probe is ''definitely revolutionary,'' said G. Dan Hutcheson, chief executive of VLSI Research Inc., in a report.

''When I first heard of wafer-level chip scale packaging (WLCSP), more than 10 years ago, I questioned the ability to test it. The problems center on the fact that probe and final test are fundamentally different and WLCSP means probe is final test,'' he said.

''The technical problem results from the fact that the probe interface puts the chip inches away from the test head. The signal path is too long for high speed test. That means you can probe the wafer, but then you must singulate and somehow deal with handling and socketing bare die, plus pay for the cost of a second test,'' he said.

''Direct probe solves this problem making it possible to do full functional testing and even simulation of high performance mixed signal and RF devices directly on the wafer,'' he said.

''The second problem is organizational and it will take some work on your market. Probe and final test are two separate organizations. They speak different technical and often different actual languages. Actually doing WLCSP is a threat to one or the other. The benefit to the chip maker is substantially lower test cost and an ability to address high value markets like smart phones with better quality and packaging options,'' he added.

Intermolecular, Guardian deal
Solar, LEDs and energy will also take center stage at Semicon. On a related front, R&D specialist Intermolecular Inc. has announced the signing of a multi-year collaborative development program and technology licensing agreement with Guardian Industries Corp. (Auburn Hills, Mich.). Guardian is said to be the worlds largest manufacturer of coated glass for automotive, architectural and other applications.

The partnership between Intermolecular and Guardian addresses the development and commercialization of a diverse set of glass coatings, many related to energy generation or energy efficiency in buildings. Target applications include both sputtered coatings to be developed with Intermoleculars Tempus P-30 combinatorial physical vapor deposition platform, and liquid coatings to be developed with Intermoleculars Tempus F-10 and F-20 wet workflows.

Glass coatings currently used to reduce energy consumption in buildings already represent a multi-billion dollar global market with significant room for further growth, said Scott Thomsen, Guardians chief technology officer and group vice president for glass in North America. Through our work with Intermolecular, we hope to take materials innovation in glass making to an entirely new level,'' he said in a statement.

Technologists from Guardian Science & Technology Center and Intermolecular will work side-by-side on multiple product development projects simultaneously, with Guardian team members spending significant time on-site at Intermoleculars development facilities in San Jose, Calif.

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