by Ed Korczynski, Senior Editor
Spanning the SEMICON West show floor revealed equipment providers' merger progress, market strategies, and new and improved technology offerings ranging from metrology to wafer cleaning to liquid waste abatement.
Rudolph Technologies has drawn a bead on the macro-inspection market, laying claim to the #1 spot in metal metrology and backend macro-inspection, as well as the FEOL macro-inspection market (44% vs. 28% for KLA-Tencor, according to Gartner data), noted Ardy Johnson, VP of corporate marketing. "Macro-inspection is a hot niche, and we're winning market share," he said. August Technology's product had resolution in the 2-10-microns range, so it can serve CMP, etch, and diffusion in addition to the traditional lithography inspection application. Adding edge-inspection and backside inspection to the same platform adds further capabilities -- as much as 30% of killer-defects are located at the wafer edge. "Our general platform strategy is to go modular, so we can make available various capabilities," Johnson noted. Rudolph is also removing some of the more premium features from ellipsometers originally developed for diffusion applications, to allow less-expensive metrology for more ubiquitous applications in its new S2000 and S3000 ellipsometers.
Nanometrics likewise touted the expected success of its in-progress merger with Accent Optical (expected to be completed by the end of this month), and claims that its new modular tool platform allows for "hot-swapping" of hardware modules to minimize downtime due to maintenance.
Many metrology platforms that used to do only spectroscopic ellipsometry now do scatterometry (aka optical digital profilometry, or "ODP"), since the major barrier to convert z-axis information (i.e., film thickness) into x/y-axis information (critical-dimension spacings) is the software modeling. However, not all software is created equal. "Pretty much anyone can measure a trapezoid of resist on blanket silicon, but our models provide exceptional accuracy for complex structures such as gate-spacers and deep vias," explained Robert Monteverde, director of marketing for Timbre Technologies, a division of TEL. Timbre claims nearly 200 systems currently running at customers such as IBM, Quimonda, and TSMC.
Nearly a year after its announcement, the merger of Entegris and Mykrolis has been "a complete success," according to president and CEO Gideon Argov, noting progress in achieving greater efficiencies such as reducing corporate floorspace by 36% through redundant facilities shutdowns. With critical cleans and other liquid-flow processes requiring lower-flows and higher temperatures, component suppliers are challenged to craft new value-added solutions. So, Entegris is now focusing on three process areas, all of which require high amounts of consumables in a fab: wet-etch and clean, photolithography, and CMP. Also, customers are now pulling Entegris into early R&D work on new technology node manufacturing processes. "When you look at lithography, we're being called on by customers to work on EUV reticles. We're already working on things that are three, four, five years out," commented SVP and CTO John Goodman. "We're a critical enabler."
Applied Materials' Tom St. Dennis presented the company's latest results on strain engineering to enable the extension of planar CMOS transistor structures to the 32nm node. Transistor performance had been stagnating, but optimized strain in PMOS has allowed a 200% increase in mobility which translates into 85% increase in drive current. "Using the combination of SiGe and stressed nitride, we think we've got PMOS on track to 32nm," he commented. Tensile strain research done in conjunction with the U. of Florida showed a linear relation between channel stress and mobility improvement with sufficient capability to produce NMOS transistors that meet ITRS specs.
Novellus introduced new versions of its Sabre electrofill as well as its Gamma dry-strip tools, and touted that SEMATECH's ATDF will use its Vector and Sola tools to produce porous-low-k wafers for use in the development of consumables, components, and equipment. The new Sabre Extreme tool features improvements in membrane and edge-exclusion hardware sub-systems, and incorporates an electrofill chemistry co-developed with ATMI/Enthone for high-aspect-ratio filling of structures at the 45nm and 32nm nodes. Gamma Express features new chemistries for minimal silicon loss, and minimum contact area components such as cassettes and end-effectors to minimize particles added.
Swagelok showed its new CR-288 concentration monitor for wet chemistry, a small in-line component comparable in size to a valve or filter. With applications in bulk-chemical distribution, POU mixing, CMP slurry control, and monitoring of waste-streams, the sensor maintains 0.1% stability and <2 sec response time, allowing it to be used for real-time control applications.
Roy Housh of Swiss firm Synova announced the company's first micro-machining center (MMC) in the US. Today, ~40% of the company's sales are to the silicon manufacturing industry, where its laser edge-grind tool pays for itself in yield improvements in four months, the company claims. Another new application is in ink-jet head "slotting" to replace etching, dry lasers, or sandblasting. The wet laser provides a smaller heat-affected-zone, and allows for cost-effective manufacturing was well as rapid prototyping. Through the years, Synova has added green and UV laser sources to the previously established IR source; different frequencies provide advantages for different materials (e.g., IR for metals, green for III-Vs).
BOC-Edwards now provides liquid abatement applications for metals (electroless depositions, ECP, and Cu CMP wastes), acids (wet-etch, wet scrubbers with HF, etc.), and solids. The company has assembled a portfolio of technologies that are combined to solve applications-specific waste streams. For example, ion-exchange and nanofiltration sub-systems can concentrate dilute metal waste streams with volume reduction factors of 800:1-3200:1 for Cu CMP, and 110:1-440:1 for metal plating. The company's forthcoming ERIX (electrically regenerated ion exchange) product, now in beta tests with expected production by 4Q06, transfers at least 7 kg/day of HF from abatement sump waste water to a concentrated form, with no chemicals added and no liquid phase discharge of solids. -- E.K.