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45nm challenges shake RTP tool arena

Posted: 19 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RTP tools? 45nm? product development?

There have been many changes in the rapid thermal processing (RTP) tool arena in the 45nm node and beyond, not the least of which is that Axcelis Technologies Inc. has decided to cease future RTP tool product development.

The move reportedly impacts Micron Technology Inc. and others, which use RTP tools from Axcelis. Instead, the chip-equipment maker will continue to focus on profitable growth within the company's core ion implant and dry strip businesses. The move narrows the field in RTP. Applied Materials Inc. and Mattson Technology Inc. are the main players in the traditional RTP market.

Changing market
But the market is rapidly changing to a new technology for the 45nm node and beyond. Traditional RTP would continue to be used for some layers at 45nm and beyond. But in some cases, ''you can't use conventional RTP,'' said Robert MacKnight, president and chief operating officer at Mattson, in a recent interview.

Vendors are developing two separate and rival technologies for the 45nm node and beyond: flash lamp and laser. DNS Electronics, LLC, Mattson and others are going after the flash-lamp market. Applied and Ultratech Inc. are said to be developing laser tools in the arena. Applied has yet to formally roll out their product.

The winner? "It will be a battle,'' MacKnight said.

Intel, IBM and others are moving towards these types of tools. At 32nm, Intel reportedly selected a tool technology from Mattson, sources said. Intel originally was supposed to use a laser tool from Ultratech, sources said.

Mattson recently claimed to have won an order at the 32nm node. The company declined to comment.

For some time, Ultratech has been pushing laser technology. Ultratech's advanced laser spike annealing (LSA) technology enables continued device scaling and eliminates bottlenecks associated with transistor channel engineering, according to the company.

Need for precision
In 2004, Mattson completed the acquisition of Vortek Industries Ltd., a privately held developer of ms flash annealing technology based in Vancouver, Canada. Vortek's RTP system, which features a patented arc lamp technology, improves thermal control for ms flash-assisted RTP annealing and meets advanced anneal process requirements through the 32nm regime, according to Mattson.

''As design rules shrink below the 65nm technology node and the industry moves to extremely short anneal times in advanced devices, precision thermal control becomes critical,'' according to Mattson at the time of the deal.

''Ultra-shallow junction formation, a critical process in the fabrication of high-performance CMOS devices, currently requires precise spike anneals that limit high-temperature exposure of the wafer to tenths of a second,'' according to the company. ''In the emerging sub-65nm era, advanced RTP applications will require this exposure time to be reduced to thousandths of a second.''

The shift towards a new technology has apparently taken a toll on one vendor. Axcelis will instead focus on ion implanters and dry strip.

For the current quarter, Axcelis expects revenues to be slightly below the $110 million to $120 million range previously provided. Net loss per share for the quarter is expected at $0.08, of which $0.05 is attributable to a charge for impairment of goodwill relating to these products. ''The company anticipates that continuing market softness is likely to put pressure on its base business into the fourth quarter of 2007,'' according to the company.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times




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