SEMICON Japan News roundup: Lots of action in materials and inspection sectors

By Paula Doe, Contributing Editor, WaferNews

Big players introduced tools for 45nm production at SEMICON Japan, but much of the activity was in improved materials that could at least be hyped as nanotechnology, and of course in more new types of metrology tools, with wafer-edge inspection a particularly hot niche for new product introductions. The other major theme: diversification into new markets for all sorts of players.

Tokyo Ohka, Riken tout etch-resistant resist coating

Tokyo Ohka and research institute Riken say their new spin-on resist coating increases etch resistance by tenfold, potentially significantly improving resolution with little added cost by allowing resist layers to be thinner and patterning more precise.

The spin-on process uses a chemical reaction to coat the top and sides of the resist pattern, making a protective coating 1nm thick, so it impacts the resolution very little. The coating prevents the resist from being etched away during aggressive etching of high aspect ratio features, allowing the use of a much thinner layer of resist.

The coating solution is spun onto the surface of the resist-patterned wafer and allowed to react for up to several tens of seconds, then removed by spinning on a cleaning solution. The wet process uses a low-cost spin coater instead of an expensive vacuum tool to make the 1nm layer, and the step can be easily integrated into the production flow. Tokyo Ohka plans to start selling the coating in the fall of 2006.

Toray chases Rohm and Haas with CMP pad for lower defects

Toray plans a big push into the CMP pad market with a new product that it says reduces defects by as much as 90% compared with current leading competitors. The company starts shipments this month for its long planned pad with a polishing layer incorporating countless tiny air bubbles made by nanotech polymer technology, combined with a long-lasting elastomer. The company says the microballoons that create the cushioning in Rohm and Haas’s market-leading pad can break under polishing pressure, and the broken scraps can leave microscratches on the wafer surface. Toray’s air bubbles leave no such remains, and reportedly also help prevent slurry clumping that can cause defects. The pad’s bubbles also contain no chlorine, so are halogen free, and the company says the nanostructured composite polishing sheet can be adjusted for hardness or density to meet future polishing requirements.

Toray plans to invest some $130 million (15 billion yen) over the next five years to build capacity to produce 30,000-50,000 units/month, hoping for an ambitious 30% share of the market.

Dainippon Screen, meanwhile, is getting into the CMP slurry delivery business, touting a pump developed to keep blood flowing during heart surgery that prevents clots or larger abrasive pieces from getting through, preventing the polishing defects these can cause. The company will market the tool through its maintenance subsidiary SEBACS, for $175,000 (20 million yen) each.

Fujimi aims to increase its share of the CMP slurry market by investing some $4.7 million (540 million yen) to increase its production capacity for colloidal silicon slurry by 20%, to 800 tons/month. The company expects to sell about $67 million (7.8 billion yen) worth of slurry for the year through March 2006, and aims to more than double that by 2009.

Nikon and Canon continue push into new markets

Nikon has sold two CMP tools to Elpida for its mainstream DRAM production. The Nikon tool (costing about $3.9 million/450 million yen) was chosen for its high productivity and low damage, according to the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun. Nikon says its upside-down design cuts slurry use in half. Nikon entered the CMP field in 2000, targeting a market for low-pressure polishing for low- dielectrics that never developed, and hasn’t made much headway against the established suppliers.

Nikon also introduced an automated macrodefect inspection tool for 55nm, to go on sale in April for $1.3 million (150 million yen), with target sales of 30 units the first year. The company says the tool can inspect 50 wafers/hour, and uses pattern-edge roughness for higher resolution to see where the pattern profile changes to image the circuit pattern.

Canon, meanwhile, will start distributing Negevtech’s inspection equipment in Japan through an exclusive arrangement with Canon Sales, thus entering the defect inspection market. Canon expects to sell 10 of the tools in fiscal 2005 at $3.9 million (450 million yen) each. Canon Sales will also market Canon’s newly developed air quality sensor for cleanrooms, in a step toward expanding its environmental business. The new sensor detects down to 1 part/trillion, and reduces labor costs by automating the analysis.

Companies see opportunities in tools for wafer edges

SES introduced a tool that removes contamination from the wafer’s edge by blowing it off and sucking it away, without touching the wafer. The company says the process does less damage and costs less than chemicals or polish, while cleaning 60 wafers/hour. The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun reported that users who have tested the tool have cut defect rates by 2-3 points, at a cost savings of about $1.7 million (200 million yen/year) from not using chemicals, or $7000/year from not using polish. The tool itself will cost about $800,000 (160 million yen). The company expects to sell 30-50 units this year.

Ohkura Industry also introduced a wafer-edge profiler that claims 10x faster analysis down to 1micron defect resolution, for sales starting in January. The tool uses a long wavelength 650nm red light to check a 300mm wafer in 10 sec, according to the Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun. It will cost $690,000 (80 million yen), less than half the price of some other tools. The company targets sales of 10 units in the first year.

Dainippon Screen debuts coater developer for immersion

Dainippon Screen introduced its coater developer for immersion lithography that adds cleaning and drying steps to reduce defects and prevent watermarks. The system uses a spray of fine water before exposure to remove any particles on top of the resist to prevent them getting into the immersion fluid. Then it blows away any remaining liquid before baking by rotating the wafers slowly in a stream of N2 gas, instead of the usual high-speed spinning. The system can include up to three modules to get throughput back up to dry exposure rates of 150 wafers/hour, reported SST partner Nikkei Microdevices online.

Previously TEL announced it would start commercial sales of its immersion track system in January. — Paula Doe, Contributing Editor, WaferNews, January 3, 2006


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