Intevac goes linear with entry into the dielectric etch market

by Debra Vogler, senior technical editor

July 16, 2007 – Since its inception in 1991 (via a LBO spin-off from Varian Semi Equip. Assoc.) Intevac Inc. has been focused on magnetic disk media sputtering/coating technology. In recent years, ~40-50 senior level managers and technologists have joined the firm from such companies as Applied Materials, Lam, Varian, and Novellus. With a renewed focus, the company has now launched its new Lean Etch tool at SEMICON West, setting its sights on the dielectric etch market.

According to Ian Latchford, marketing director at Intevac, the new platform is a six-chamber tool — three chambers each in two independent banks, with each chamber also independent of the others, and two independent linear robots running lengthwise along the tool use magnetics to avoid motors and electrostatics. When both banks are fully operational, the tool can achieve total throughput of 200 wafers/hr, he told WaferNEWS. If one chamber goes down, either the chamber can be taken down for service — or, if the end user prefers to take the entire bank down (to do general service), the tool is still able to perform at 100 wafers/hr with the remaining bank. Maintenance personnel can literally walk through the tool in order to perform work, Latchford noted.

The significance of the platform design, noted Kevin Fairbairn, company president and CEO, is that it eliminates the wasted space associated with cluster tool designs. He cited other cluster tool drawbacks such as bottlenecks, and poor service access to process chambers and wafer handling platforms. Plasma generation using a new instant-on T-source allows for soft (low-frequency) in-situ plasma cleaning.

The company does not plan on stopping with dielectric etch, nor with future extensions to silicon and metal etch applications. According to Latchford, the new platform is universal and designed for PVD and CVD applications as well. Without being specific, Latchford hinted that some deposition technology might be available by the end of 2008. Beta tools will go to three memory chipmakers, he said. The design goals for the universal plasma systems came from the much tougher disk-drive market, Fairbairn explained, based on lean manufacturing principles. — D.V. and B.H.


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