By Mike Rosa, Applied Materials
In 2004/2005, shipments of 300mm wafer fab equipment (WFE) began to outpace that of 200mm platforms. As the “baton” in the node-scaling race appeared to pass from 200mm to 300mm, it was clear that device manufacturers were transitioning to higher-volume, more cost-effective 300mm toolsets for cost efficiencies of the production of advanced memory and microprocessor devices. Tool suppliers enabled the transition with the availability of the comprehensive 300mm toolset and began a new 300mm technology race, and leaving the major OEMs to focus on service and spares for the now legacy 200mm toolsets. With advanced device designs fully transitioned to 300mm, many IDMs and foundries were left with growing excess capacity on their 200mm production lines.
Surprisingly, new life and attention has been refocused on the 200mm tool sets and available capacity as two phenomena are driving new requirement and economics.
First, in 2006, a MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems)-based accelerometer became a game changer when introduced into Nintendo’s next-generation Wii motion controller. This was the first significant and novel use of a MEMS device for motion tracking in a high-volume consumer application. Next, in 2007, when Apple Inc. first introduced the iPhone to the world, it came to light that MEMS devices were enabling a number of its advanced motion-based features.
Later, it would be noted that more than 75% of the semiconductor device content in the iPhone was sourced from 200mm wafer starts. The devices manufactured on 200mm wafers spanned a wide variety of applications that included not only MEMS applications (motion, audio, RF, etc.) but also CIS (CMOS Image Sensor), communications, power management and analog devices.
Sold in the hundreds of millions per year, first the iPhone and then the multitude of other smart phones, tablet PCs, and related digital devices, that followed, drove the adoption of the emerging “More-than-Moore” class of devices (which were first pioneered on 150mm wafers at the time) onto 200mm wafers. These high-volume consumer applications gave rise to a resurgence in both new and used of 200mm equipment. This sudden requirement for new sourcing of “legacy” 200mm toolsets placed considerable strain on a supply chain that then focused almost exclusively on 300mm; tool vendors struggled in refurbishment, upgrade, and production of matching tools and processes that performed outside the requirements of traditional semiconductor applications (see Figure 1).
Some of these additional requirements — including new and thicker films (>20µm), advanced DRIE (Deep-Reactive-Ion-Etch) capabilities capable of delivering aspect ratios approaching 100:1, and new process capabilities like HFv (Hydrofluoric Acid vapor) release etch and Wafer Bonding — resulted in OEMs needing to restart 200mm tool development. In some cases, OEMS needed to expand their product portfolios to support the growing needs of customers producing devices in the rapidly expanding “More-than-Moore” device segment.
Fast forward to 2014 —what a difference approximately seven years has made to the industry segment and more specifically the number of opportunities in the 200mm WFE market for the new class of devices.
The surge in mobile device applications and more recently wearable technologies, has meant that device manufacturers are increasingly under pressure to produce cheaper, smaller, more capable and more power efficient devices most economically and efficiently — and this remains optimally on legacy 200mm toolsets. Combining this with the materials and production challenges presented by ultra-high volume applications spelled out in the ‘Trillion Sensor Vision’ and the now looming IoT (Internet-of-Things) (see Figure 2), and it becomes clear that OEMs who continue to support and develop solutions for the 200mm WFE market have both significant challenges and potential rewards.
Rising to the challenge presented by the demands of these rapidly growing market segments, Applied Materials is an OEM that has, over the past several years, continued to invest in the R&D of its 200mm portfolio products. Challenged to deliver new materials and processes (see Figure 3) in support the growing class of 200mm emerging technology applications that have come to include MEMS, CIS, Power Device, Analog, WLP (Wafer Level Packaging), TFB (Thin Film Battery), TSV (through-silicon via), etc., Applied Materials believes that working close to the customer and more collaboratively throughout the supply chain is paramount to success in a technically challenging and price sensitive market. The 200mm ecosystem supporting broadly expanding cost-senstive device classes represent a new fork in the roadmap that has been almost myopically focused on Moore’s Law evolution.
Learn more about how this dynamic market is changing at the session on “Secondary Equipment for Mobile & Diversified Applications” at SEMICON West 2014 in San Francisco, Calif on July 8-10.