Entegris tour covers the leading edge of filtration, 450mm, and the importance of collaboration

By Solid State Technology

May 2, 2012 -- Solid State Technology recently visited Entegris’ Billerica, MA, location to discuss the contamination challenges of leading-edge semiconductor fabs, the progress made or not made by the semiconductor industry on 450mm, and Entegris’ new i2M Center for Advanced Materials Science. We poked our heads into various engineering labs to watch filter development in action, see how filter membranes are folded or stacked for best contamination control and materials throughput, and learn about new materials that create cleaner fab environments.

Semiconductor wafer fabs are the leading edge for contamination control and sterility across any industry sector, said John Puglia, Ph.D., director of research development and engineering at Entegris. “I could bring a semiconductor wafer into an operating theater in a hospital, but if I tried to bring it back into a wafer fab, they wouldn’t let me past the parking lot!” Puglia said.

Device nodes are so fine now, that things “we took for granted” in the past now cause problems, he added. Contamination can occur from the polymers in the filter, which prompted Entegris to change from commodity to engineered resins for its raw materials. The lining in a bulk chemical tank far upstream matters now at the wafer level. Gas filtration is needed in front opening unified pods (FOUPs) to prevent moisture contamination of wafers. People are walking sources of fab contamination as well, despite cleanroom attire.

This ever-increasing attention to contaminants at the leading edge informs products for mature nodes as well. Yields can be improved at the larger nodes with enhanced air and liquid filtration, and the data from these high-volume applications will inform leading-edge product development.

Jennifer Braggin, strategic applications technologist at Entegris, says the way to move forward and resolve contamination control/throughput challenges is through more and more collaboration. Customers request it, she said. Working with research organizations like imec directly benefits Entegris’ product lines, today and for future products, she added, praising the open environment at imec that allows suppliers and chipmakers from all steps in the chain to interact.

We also had a chance to consider 450mm while visiting Entegris. The size of the 450mm opportunity is smaller than the opportunity at 300mm was, which was in turn smaller than the opportunity at 200mm, said Bertrand Loy, EVP and COO at Entegris. Meaning, equipment suppliers will not see as many orders for 450mm tools as they did in the previous wafer size transitions. A small number of chip makers dominate the industry now, however, and if those suppliers begin to really demand 450mm, equipment makers will need to support the move. Referring back to the chip fab/supply chain collaboration that Braggin described, the team at Entegris said consolidation in the chip manufacturing sector actually improves supply chain collaboration, as tool suppliers and infrastructure support companies build R&D teams around “mega companies” making semiconductors.

We’ll be back to visit Entegris when their new i2M Center for Advanced Materials Science goes up nearby in Bedford, MA. Some of the filtration labs we saw on this trip will move into the new location, joining -- for intra-supplier collaboration -- their colleagues working on electrostatic wafer clamps (E-Chucks) and proprietary advanced low-temperature coatings. You can read about the Entegris i2M Center for Advanced Materials Science here.
-- Meredith Courtemanche, digital media editor, Solid State Technology, [email protected]

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