Contamination control goes without saying, SEMI says

SAN FRANCISCO – Cleanroom technology is the driving force behind some of the trends outlined in a top 10 list that Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) unveiled in July at the SEMICON West show, held in San Francisco and San Jose, CA.

The list included the transition to 300-millimeter wafers (#1), the importance of software and its value to manufacturing equipment (#5), and the Internet as a vehicle that will bolster the industry (#10). SEMI's president Stanley T. Myers says the trends were identified with the help of SEMI officials and about 100 industry professionals in the United States, Europe, Japan and Korea, who were part of a “quick survey” that he did not consider “statistically valid.”

“Contamination control is a significant factor, all the way from the crystal. It's just assumed that you have the resources for cleanrooms,” Myers says. “There are some pervasive things, certain things we departmentalize. I would think that [contamination control] fits in the 300 mm wafer transition (#1) or into the materials transition (# 3) and it also fits into chip-scale packaging (#4).”

At that same show, contamination control was ranked fourth on a top 10 list of major issues in fabrication plant processing. That list was outlined in “Market Trends: USA, Japan & Taiwan,” a presentation delivered by Robert C. Haavind, editor-in-chief of Solid State Technology, the international magazine for semiconductor manufacturing, which is also published by PennWell (Nashua, NH).

Peter N. Dunn, senior editor of Solid State Technology and editor and publisher of WaferNews, both PennWell publications, agrees that contamination control is a “big issue for fab operators these days.”

“Process technology advances have accelerated to a generation every two years since 1995, and this pace will continue for at least one more generation; this puts pressure not only on control, but also on basic testing and measurement capabilities,” he adds.

Dunn says he and his staff are also seeing a greater interest in contamination control within the standard mechanical interface (SMIF) realm. “Many of the Southeast Asian foundries have had good success with it, and it looks like it will be pretty standard for 300mm,” he says. “Also, Texas Instruments recently decided to add SMIF to its DMOS-4 fab during an upgrade to 200mm capability. Another big trend is the addition of much more metrology equipment on the fab line and perhaps even on individual pieces of equipment, to track and isolate any contamination problems.”

Myers recognizes the trend, saying there are numerous issues that need to be resolved when it comes to particle control. A very real problem is the economic impact of the cleanroom. The research and development involved to solve any kind of technical hurdle in a cleanroom, he says, will affect product cost.

And contamination control, Myers reminds, is a facet that is present from the growth of the crystal to the production of the chip. “We are driving the technology like hell, but it's creating a tremendous demand on those meeting the technology requirements for cleanrooms,” he says. “It's a significant issue. It has to do with quality. It's got to be there, and it goes without saying.”

The top 10 list

  1. The transition to larger, 300-millimeter silicon wafers.
  2. The apparent need for an economic model for future product development.
  3. Use of new materials to fabricate transistors, isolation layers and barrier layers.
  4. Chip scale packaging as a performance-hindering characteristic.
  5. Fabrication plant automation, and the importance of software and its growing value to manufacturing equipment.
  6. Lithography and its further development for the continuation of “shrinks.”
  7. Outsourcing.
  8. Access to expansion capital, short start-up time and immediate yield productivity.
  9. Capacity visibility: A need for a greater understanding of demand cycles and capacity issues required for businesses to operate more efficiently.
  10. The Internet, and its reliance on telecommunications infrastructure, which heavily depends on semiconductors. -MD

Mark A. DeSorbo


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