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Keep track of these 6 fab tech, too

Posted: 15 Oct 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:technologies fab? 32nm? lithography?

Keep an eye on these fab technologies, too. They're not on the hot seat, but they're not far from it, either.

Double-patterning lithography
Double-patterning, which means the wafer must be exposed twice, may be required at 32nm production, increasing lithography costs. The complex variations of the technology!double-exposure, trench double-patterning, line double-patterning, litho-etch-litho-etch, spacer and so on!could be a deployment migraine for the IC industry.

Photomask inspection
KLA-Tencor has a monopoly in this sector and charges a premium for its tools!try $40 million for its top-of-the-line gear! But Applied Materials and NuFlare recently rolled out competitive tools. If they can't break KLA-Tencor's monopoly, capital costs for mask shops will continue to soar.

This is always a challenge, especially as device geometries shrink. But the new concern is the "haze effect"!the impact of immersion lithography in the IC flow causes a "haze" that degrades the optical characteristics of a photomask. This haze must be detected and cleaned, which means photomask makers need more inspection machines and cleaning tools, not just in the mask shop but also in the fab. Ka-ching.

Ion implanters
Varian dominates this market!Axcelis, the No. 2 supplier, and others are struggling. If Varian runs away with the business, chip makers will be left with little choice in implanters, a critical but overlooked part of the fab process.

Next-generation rapid thermal processing
RTP, which heats silicon wafers to high temperatures, has been a stable business, but vendors are developing two rival post-RTP technologies: flash lamp and laser. DNS, Mattson and others are pursuing the flash-lamp market; Ultratech is developing laser tools. But there have been delays and setbacks, especially at Ultratech, and chip makers are taking longer than expected to insert the technology. Next-gen "rapid" thermal processing is not so rapid after all.

Atomic layer deposition
For some time, DRAM makers have used ALD technology as a way to scale the capacitor. But on the copper/barrier seed front, ALD has been pushed out to the 32nm node. ALD is being used to devise high-k dielectrics in logic designs. Intel has made it work, but can anyone else? Aixtron, Applied Materials, ASM International, Aviza, IPS, Novellus, TEL, Veeco and others make ALD gear. Applied has made a play to dominate the sector with its bid to buy ASMI, which supplies ALD gear to Intel. Get out your scorecards.

- Mark Lapedus
EE Times

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