SEMICON West: Shoes vs. phones, CMP users, updating Art’s Law

by Michael A. Fury, Techcet Group

July 19, 2010 – The second day of SEMICON West 2010 started earlier than usual for over a hundred folks with the now-traditional ElectroIQ (PennWell Publishing) Marketing & Technology Update Breakfast. Among the tidbits gleaned from Bill McClean of IC Insights:

  • WalMart’s annual sales of $400B are larger than the entire semiconductor capital equipment market.
  • Following each of the five economic downturns and recoveries over the past 30 years, the semiconductor industry has experienced double-digit growth, so we can expect that again now.
  • The next semiconductor downturn can be expected in 2013.
  • Only 15 companies hold 92% of the global capacity for 300mm leading edge chip manufacturing.

Click to EnlargeAt the same breakfast conclave, Proteus Biomedical CEO Andrew Thomas wove an interesting tale that took us to some unexpected places. Of the 7 billion people on the planet, only 3.5B wear shoes — yet 4.5B own a cell phone, even though many of them earn <$10/day. Clearly, electronic devices have tremendous market penetration power. Many of those cell phone owners never have and never will see a doctor in their lifetimes. Andrew aspires to reach those people with medical attention by driving the healthcare business model — which is driven today by the richest 10% in the world — toward the electronics business model, which is doing a far better job reaching the poorest among us. One of the elements of his system is a digestible electronic pill that delivers the medicine and reports conditions from the inside of the body before it dissolves away. Think of it as OnStar for your body. I am reasonably (but not 100%) certain that these devices were not part of the breakfast.

About 50 people attended the SEMI Chemical & Gas Manufacturers Group (CGMG) meeting in the Marriott. Among the highlights from Jim Hannah (IBM), Roger Gosset (Freescale), and Lita Shon-Roy (Techcet):

  • Growing concern about China restricting access to rare earth metals important to semiconductor production.
  • Less toxic alternatives to TMAH are needed.
  • More formulated cleaning chemistries are needed, with better selectivity targeting; a larger process window is becoming a more important differentiator.
  • Reduction of trace metals in lithography materials to 1-5 ppb.
  • Greater sensitivity to ‘blood minerals,’ analogous to ‘blood diamonds.’
  • Ta, Ti, and anhydrous HCl are examples of movement in global supply chain issues impacting supply reliability for semiconductors. We like to think we are a huge, important industry, but we are a drop in the bucket for many materials.
  • The drive to reduce industry solvent usage is focusing on reducing the volume per wafer, not looking for dry (plasma or scCO2) cleaning alternatives.
  • The need for new materials continues to be severely challenged by the misalignment between huge fixed R&D costs for product development and qualification, vs. very tiny total available markets.

A number of companies were present at the show without having a booth on the floor. SAFC rented out a restaurant above the entrance to the North Hall and had a wonderful venue for lunch and cocktail receptions and all the happy customer meetings one could hope for.

Day 1: CMP, slurries, metrology, thermal, zombies, observations

The NCCAVS CMPUG meeting was held in a presentation area in the South Hall. While these meetings in past years have been good networking opportunities for CMP folks, as well as a quiet respite from the buzz of the show floor in a closed meeting room, this floor venue proved to be an exercise in patience and stamina. It’s tough enough to concentrate with the constant hall noise, but the periodic interruptions by the SEMI announcer are impossible to compete with. To make matters worse, the number of standees was about 2× the number of folks who were lucky enough to find a seat. I really do hope we return to the separate room in coming years.

Presentations from the CMPUG session (and all of the other NCCAVS sessions) will be posted as usual on the NCCAVS Web site in the coming weeks. Some highlights from Robert Castellano (Information Network), Karey Holland and myself (Techcet) and Mike Corbett (Linx Consulting):

  • The transition from 200mm to 300mm cost $25B and took 11 years; expect about the same for the transition to 450mm.
  • Europe is supporting 450mm in the hopes of establishing a competitive niche.
  • A 15%-20% ROI for 450mm tool development would require the construction of 4-8 450mm fabs/year for the next 15 years — and this doesn’t seem likely.
  • A SEMI working group has reported little upside benefit and high downside risk for 450mm.
  • The CMP pad and slurry markets are recovering quickly from the recession, and are likely to exceed the 2007 peak by next year if not later this year.
  • Asahi Glass is enjoying a rapid expansion of their market share for CeO2 STI slurry.
  • Some lasting effects of the latest recession include accepting lower purity sputter targets, using HfCl4 instead of more expensive Hf organometallic precursors, increasing the level of POU slurry dilution, and using more home-brew PCMP formulations rather than commercial products.
  • From now thru 2014, expect an 11% CAGR in the number of CMP wafer passes in fabs globally.
  • By 2014, ~10% of all CMP wafer passes will be for 22nm technology.
  • NexPlanar is expected to be among the last VC-funded CMP startups.

I also had some Q&A regarding SemiQuest button pads and the Confluense Pad Surface Manager, which I will address in tomorrow’s blog.

SEMATECH hosted a nice reception Weds. evening in the Marriott. This gave me a chance to visit at length with Lloyd Young, fab manager at East Fishkill Building 322 through several company reincarnations, and now president of his own Solid State Cooling Systems company. I also broke bread with the folks from Scottish Enterprise, my colleagues from Ceimig Ltd., and Global Scot Ron Leckie at the Epic Roasthouse along the waterfront, opposite Palomino and Gordon Biersch. I highly recommend adding this destination to your San Francisco plans in the future. Your customers will be impressed.

Finally, it has come to my attention that I may have raised the bar too high in my IITC blogs last month when I indicated that Ed Korczynski may need to acquire a Ferrari dealership in order to legitimize his ponytail, under Zafiropoulo’s Law. While I did not see Art at the show myself, I was told by reliable sources that he has trimmed his hair and was not wearing the tail. At this point, I can only suspend judgment on Ed’s lack of affiliation with Ferrari.

Michael A. Fury, Ph.D, is senior technology analyst at Techcet Group, LLC, P.O. Box 29, Del Mar, CA 92014; e-mail [email protected].


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