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Blog review July 14, 2014

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Ed Korzynski blogs that Moore’s Law is dead – including what and when in the first two parts of a four part series that reference an interview with Gordon Moore and the “so-called” Moore’s Law (by Moore himself).

Pete Singer also blogs on continued scaling, as discussed by IBM’s Gary Patton at The ConFab in June. Patton said scaling will continue but the industry needs to address costs in addition to continued technology innovation.

Many of the developments in the semiconductor industry have stemmed from the continued progress in lithography. However, with the persistent uncertainty of extreme ultraviolet EUV for future-generation patterning, the industry has developed techniques such as self-alignment double patterning (SADP) to extend optical lithography. In a video produced by SPIETV, Chris Bencher of Applied Materials Office of the Chief Technology Officer, reviews the evolution of SADP and looks to its future.

The VLSI Symposia – one on technology and one on circuits – are among the most influential in the semiconductor industry. Three hugely important papers were presented – one on 14nm FD-SOI and two on 10nm SOI FinFETs – at the most recent symposia in Honolulu. Adele Hars reports.

The 5th annual Suss Technology Forum was recently held at SEMICON West focused on trends in 3DIC and WLP. Phil Garrou reports in his latest blog.

Blog review June 30, 2014

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Pete Singer blogs that at The ConFab last week, IBM’s Gary Patton gave us three reasons to be very positive about the future of the semiconductor industry: an explosion of applications, the rise of big data and the need to analyze all that data.

Tony Chao of Applied Materials writes that Applied Ventures will be participating in the second-annual Silicon Innovation Forum (SIF) held in conjunction with SEMICON West 2014 in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 8. The forum is designed to bring new and emerging innovators together with the semiconductor industry’s top strategic investors and venture capitalists (VCs), in order to enable closer collaboration and showcase the next generation of entrepreneurs in microelectronics.

Adele Hars of ASN recently caught up again with Laurent Malier, CEO of CEA-Leti to get his take on the ST-Samsung news. Malier said that CEA-Let has been heavily investing in FD-SOI technology, committing critical scientific and technological support at each phase of FD-SOI development.

Phil Garrou blogs that last week at the 2014 ISC (International Supercomputing Conference) it was announced that the Intel Xenon Phi processor “Knights Landing” would debut in 2015. It will be manufactured by Intel using 14nm FinFET process technology and will include up to 72 processor cores that can work on up to four threads per core.

Solid State Watch: May 23-29, 2014

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
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Blog review June 2, 2014

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The Internet of Things alone will surpass the PC, tablet and phone market combined by 2017, with a global internet device installed base of around 7,500,000,000 devices. Speaking at ASMC, TSMC’s John Lin said in addition to a continued push to smaller geometries and ultra-low power, the company will focus on “special” technologies such as image sensor, embedded DRAMs, high-voltage power ICs, RF, analog, and embedded flash. “All this will support all of the future Internet of Things,” he said.

Kavita Shah of Applied Materials blogs about the company’s new Volta system. She says desighed to alleviate roadblocks to copper interconnect scaling beyond the 2Xnm node through two enabling applications—a conformal cobalt liner and a selective cobalt capping layer, which together completely encapsulate the copper wiring.

In an interview, Christophe Maleville, Senior Vice President of Soitec’s Microelectronics Business Unit, talks about why FD-SOI provides a much better combination of power consumption, performance and cost than any alternative. Talking about Samsung’s move to FDSOI, he said “at 28nm, FD-SOI gets them an unprecedented combination of performance and power consumption for a cost comparable to that of standard low-power 28nm technology, making 28FD an extremely attractive alternative to any flavor of bulk CMOS at this node.”

Phil Garrou continues his analysis of presentations from the recent SEMI 2.5/3D IC forum in Singapore. In his third blog post on the topic, he reviews Nanium’s presentation “Wafer Level Fan-Out as Fine-Pitch Interposer” which focused on the premise that FO-WLP technology, eWLB, has closed the gap caused by the delay in the introduction of Si or glass interposers as mainstream high volume commodity technology.

Vivek Bakshi blogs that it takes a large infrastructure to make EUVL a manufacturing technology. So many tool suppliers, large and small, want to know when EUVL will be inserted into fabs for production and how and how much it will be used. Their business depends on these answers and some, especially smaller suppliers, are getting cold feet as delays in EUVL readiness continue. The answers to these questions mostly depend on knowing what we can expect from sources in the short- and near term, but there are many additional questions one must ask as well.

Karen Lightman of the MEMS Industry Group blogs about recent events in Japan, including the MIG Conference Japan. The focus of the conference was on navigating the challenges of the global MEMS supply chain. Several of the speakers gave their no-holds-barred view of these challenges, including the keynote from Sony Communications, Takeshi Ito, Chief Technology Officer, Head of Technology, Sony Mobile Communications.

The Week in Review: May 30, 2014

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Applied Materials, Inc. introduced the Endura Ventura PVD system that helps customers reduce the cost of fabricating smaller, lower power, high-performance integrated 3D chips.

STATS ChipPAC Ltd., a provider of advanced semiconductor packaging and test services, today introduced encapsulated Wafer Level Chip Scale Package, a packaging technology that raises the industry standard of durability for Wafer Level Chip Scale Packaging (WLCSP).

The Semiconductor Industry Association announced that global semiconductor industry leaders reached an agreement at the 18th annual meeting of the World Semiconductor Council (WSC) last week on a series of policy proposals to strengthen the industry through international cooperation.

The 60th annual IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) has issued a Call for Papers seeking the world’s best original work in all areas of microelectronics research and development.

SEMI announced that SEMICON West 2014 will feature Bob Metcalfe, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, as the Silicon Innovation Forum’s keynote speaker.

The Week in Review: May 16, 2014

Friday, May 16th, 2014

On May 14, 2014, it was announced that STMicroelectronics and Samsung Electronics signed an agreement on 28nm Fully Depleted Silicon-on-Insulator (FD-SOI) technology for multi-source manufacturing collaboration. The agreement includes ST’s fully developed process technology and design enablement ecosystem from its 300mm facility in Crolles, France. The Samsung 28nm FD-SOI process will be qualified in early 2015 for volume production.

Applied Materials announced its Applied Endura Volta CVD Cobalt system, the only tool capable of encapsulating copper interconnects in logic chips beyond the 28nm node by depositing precise, thin cobalt films.. The introduction of cobalt as a superior metal encapsulation film marks the most significant materials change to the interconnect in over 15 years.

Dow Corning introduced Dow Corning EE-3200 Low-Stress Silicone Encapsulant – the latest addition to its portfolio of advanced solutions designed to expand performance and durability of solar micro-inverters, power optimizers and other high value components.

Element Six today announced that its Gallium Nitride (GaN)-on-Diamond wafers have been proven by Raytheon Company to significantly outperform industry standard Gallium Nitride-on-Silicon Carbide (GaN-on-SiC) in RF devices.

A newly finalized Department of Defense (DoD) rule reduces the risk of counterfeit semiconductor products being used by our military by implementing needed safeguards in the procurement of semiconductors and other electronic parts.

Noel Technologies, a Silicon Valley specialty foundry offering process development and substrate fabrication, is now offering services for nanoimprint technology that reduce the costs of the nanoimprint stamps.

SEMATECH announced that researchers have reported progress which could significantly improve resist sensitivity by incorporating metal oxide nanoparticles for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, bringing the technology another step toward enabling the development of high performance resists required to enable EUV for high-volume manufacturing (HVM).

Mentor Graphics Corporation this week announced the new MicReD Industrial Power Tester 1500A for power cycling and thermal testing of electronics components to simulate and measure lifetime performance. The MicReD Industrial Power Tester 1500A tests the reliability of power electronic components that are increasingly used in industries such as automotive and transportation including hybrid and electrical vehicles and trains, power generation and converters, and renewable energy applications such as wind turbines.  It is the only commercially available thermal testing product that combines both power cycling and thermal transient measurements with structure function analysis while providing data for real-time failure-cause diagnostics.

Solid State Watch: May 9-15, 2014

Friday, May 16th, 2014
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Blog review May 5, 2014

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Jeremy Read of Applied Materials writes that while some consumer IoT applications will require semiconductors manufactured using cutting-edge technologies the vast majority of chips will be used in client-side applications. These chips, such as a sensor monitoring room temperature in a connected HVAC system, require processing capabilities that can be met using legacy process (90 and 45nm) technologies manufactured on 200mm wafers.

Ali Khakifirooz of Spansion notes that body biasing has been long considered as an effective and relatively easy way to compensate for some of the process variations. Not only does it lead to a tighter performance distribution and better yield, but also by mitigating the guardband requirements for process corners and temperature variation, it leads to better performance and faster design cycle.

Frank Feng of Mentor Graphics blogs that transistor and gate levels of library design are normally delivered fully vetted for reliability issues such as electrostatic discharge (ESD), latch-up, electrical overstress (EOS), and dielectric breakdown. However, when designers assemble transistors and gates into intellectual property (IP), blocks, or whole chip designs, they encounter a variety of reliability problems generated across interconnect layers or across device regions of PSUB and NWELL bodies.

Phil Garrou has not been predicting the end of the world, but rather the end of electronics as we know it, i.e.,relying on CMOS scaling. He blogs that it was with great anticipation that he perused the 2013 ITRS roadmap that was released a few weeks ago. He is happy to tell you they are facing the challenges head on although the ultimate solutions are, as we might expect, not yet crystal clear.

Pete Singer writes that the newly revamped International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors was released in early April. It’s actually called the 2013 ITRS, which makes it seem already out of date, but that’s the way the numbering has always been. The latest ITRS highlights 3D power scaling, system level integration and a new chapter on big data.

Blog review March 31, 2014

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Ofer Adan of Applied Materials blogs about his keynote presentation at the recent SPIE Advanced Lithography conference, which focused on how improvements in metrology, multi-patterning techniques and materials can enable 3D memory and the critical dimension (CD) scaling of device designs to sub-10nm nodes.

Soitec’s Bich-Yen Nguyen and Christophe Maleville detail why the fully-depleted SOI device/circuit is a unique option that can satisfy all the requirements of smart handheld devices and remote data storage “in the cloud.” Devices that are almost always on and driven by needs of high data transmission rate, instant access/connection and long battery life. Demonstrated benefits of FDSOI, including simpler fabrication and scalability are covered.

This year’s IMAPS Device Packaging Conference in Ft McDowell, AZ had a series of excellent keynote talks. Phil Garrou takes a look at some of those and several key presentations from the conference. Steve Bezuk, Sr. Dir. of Package Engineering for Qualcomm discussed “challenges and directions in mobile device packaging”. Qualcomm expects 7 billion smartphone units to be shipped between 2012 and 2017.

Karen Lightman of the MEMS Industry Group writes about the recent MEMS Executive Congress Europe 2014. She describes how every panelist shared not only the “everything’s-coming-up-MEMS” perspective but also some real honest discussion about the remaining challenges of getting MEMS devices to market on-time, and at (or below) cost.

Pete Singer shares some details of the upcoming R&D Panel Session at The ConFab this year. The session, to be moderated by Scott Jones of Alix Partners, will include panelists Rory McInerny of Intel, Chris Danely of JP Morgan, Mike Noonen of Silicon Catalyst and Lode Lauwers of imec.

Roll over flat panel displays

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

By Sara Ver-Bruggen, contributing editor

Flexible displays is a technological field that has been in R&D and pre-commercial development for several years, but what needs to happen to make volume production a reality, in areas including substrates, materials and production processes? Semiconductor Manufacturing & Design discussed the issues with Max McDaniel, Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Display Business Group, Applied Materials, Michael Ciesinski, MD of the Flextech Alliance, and Keri Goodwin, Principal Scientist from the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), in the UK.

SemiMD: Taking a step back and looking at the timeline for flexible display R&D and achievements so far, where is the industry in terms of entering volume production – how close is the industry to resolving those outstanding challenges to volume production, such as cost-effective barrier technologies, for example?

McDaniel: Curved displays are here as evidenced by several curved smartphones and TVs showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2014. People are ready for flexible displays, but production volume will take some more time. As the smartphone market matures, brands are embattled in a ‘resolution arms race’. The key challenge for the brand makers is to come up with the next big thing that will differentiate their products and spur new demand from consumers. The display plays a key role in defining the device, and a new form factor – like flexible displays – can bring new opportunities to the market, but the technology is not ready for the mass market because of cost and technology challenges.

Ciesinski: FlexTech initiated its R&D program into flexible displays in 1998 with substantial project funding beginning in 2002 and continuing today. We’ve worked with companies and R&D organizations in the areas of substrates, encapsulation, barrier coating, roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacturing and other key areas. Generally, the supply chain for flexible electronics is adequate but not yet robust, which will occur once large volume production is achieved. In building flat panel displays (FPDs) that industry could build on IC manufacturing strengths and simply scale the equipment. For volume manufacturing on a flexible substrate, many new tools and processes have to be developed from scratch, such as metrology, as experts must build a system to account for a substrate that can shrink or expand depending on temperature, and move in multiple directions. As for barriers, several solutions are available and ready for production. The extreme requirements for OLED thin film barriers have been achieved in production and the main focus now is on cost reduction. The materials industry is quite competitive and ready for volume. In order to obtain better utilization of these materials in production new printing equipment is being developed.

Goodwin: There are still significant challenges to overcome in flexible display volume production. A cost-effective flexible barrier with a very low water transmission vapor rate (WVTR) is still to be developed, this will be required if OLED frontplanes are to be used. Typically these barriers are still multilayer structures with a mix of inorganic and organic coatings to minimize defect levels. While this can be achieved R2R, perhaps via a combination of sputter deposition and solution processing such as slot die, the cost will ultimately be set by the number of multiple coatings required.

An alternative method may be to use R2R atomic layer deposition (ALD), which should yield a significantly lower level of defects, thereby improving the barrier capability of a single layer and reducing, or removing, the need for multiple coatings. However, process scale up is required. CPI envisages that R2R ALD will play important roles in various aspects of flexible printable electronics, where highly conformal nanoscale thin films are required. CPI has been evaluating ALD technology for several years and recently signed an agreement with Beneq to deliver an ALD system to CPI for pilot scale production.

Layer-to-layer registration is another major challenge to overcome in volume production with flexible substrates typically distorting during processing. This issue can be overcome in several ways such as development of lower temperature processes or development of lamination materials to allow sheet-to-sheet (S2S) production without distortion.

And, in terms of commercialization for flexible (as opposed to curved) displays what time frame are we talking?

McDaniel: The approach for early adopters of flexible displays has been a production process that adheres the flexible substrate onto glass, running it through what’s mostly the normal rigid OLED processing, and then delaminating that flexible substrate from the rigid one at the end of processing. What remains is a flexible substrate that has all the transistor structures built onto it. However, this is still a complex process, and due to the cost and complexity involved in manufacturing on a high-volume scale, it is still a ways off from full mass production.

Goodwin: Overall, there are multiple approaches to volume production of flexible displays but all require scale up towards a commercialization solution, therefore it would be expected that the timeline for a product is still five years away. What is important in the short term is to demonstrate controlled processes that can yield products with good lifetime and performance, which then can be scaled up for commercialization.

Ciesinski: Displays in a conformable format have been produced and exhibited; a truly flexible and foldable display is much more than that and there are many approaches to achieving this result in the next few years.

Various flexible display R&D has focused on different substrates, different thin film transistor (TFT) materials and so on. Is there likely to be one approach that will make it to volume production?

Ciesinski: Multiple approaches are currently being considered by the market. For example, plastic substrate films from DuPont Teijin and other suppliers have a strong a presence. Corning’s introduction of flexible glass provides a competitive choice. As for the display technology, LCDs, OLEDs and electrophoretic displays have all been built in a flexible format. Materials will continue to improve and there will be multiple TFT materials for the next few years.

McDaniel: Materials have a key role to play in the R&D efforts for enabling flexible displays. OLED is promising as the rigid glass encapsulation required to protect the organic material from moisture and air can be replaced by thin film. You can make flexible LCD displays but maintaining the required cell gap between the color filter and backplane is very difficult to do. Both OLED and LCD require a TFT backplane. A major challenge for the industry is how to move away from rigid glass while not compromising the operation of the TFT when flexed, folded, or bent.

We have discussed the backplane and encapsulation; but for OLED to get to mass production (especially in large sizes); the industry also has to address challenges in EL evaporation such as lifetime of organic materials, low deposition efficiency, low yield from defects and scalability of evaporation technology which affect the cost of volume production but are not necessarily related to the issues around flexibility. All display technologies, including OLED displays, require very high levels of precision in film uniformity and particle control to maintain yield. There is the potential for OLED display production to become less expensive, and Applied Materials is leveraging its expertise in precision materials engineering to help solve these technology hurdles to reduce the cost and complexity.

Goodwin: It is likely that there will be multiple options for volume production. This will depend on final product requirements, such as limits of flexibility, level of resolution of display and cost of display. For example, metal oxide-based TFT displays already demonstrate high performance in terms of the TFT, and therefore can achieve high resolution displays, but ultimately will be very limited in the flexibility.

Organic electronics show excellent flexibility, but historically have tended to have a lower performance for OLED display backplanes and therefore may not achieve the same level of display resolution as metal oxide in the short term. More recently this gap in performance has been closed substantially making organic TFT backplanes a good candidate for a wide variety of display formats and resolutions. In addition OTFT backplanes may ultimately be a lower cost of production. Overall, it is likely that the different TFT technologies will independently develop the substrate types suitable for their processes, for example metal oxide on high temperature substrates and for organics the substrates are likely to be more flexible and suitable for lower temperature processes.

SemiMD: In terms of production equipment and tool advances, which technologies are most promising for enabling volume production of flexible displays?

Goodwin: Metal oxide is currently deposited via industrially used techniques/tools in the display industry, such as sputter deposition. This makes it a likely candidate for early adoption in the display industry, with moderate investment required to enable scale-up. However, solution-processing of organic based materials is likely to provide a lower cost of manufacture via the route of additive printing and R2R manufacture. CPI is working with a number of SMEs in building scale up capability across a range of printed and plastic electronics technology areas such as OLED, OTFT and barrier encapsulation, to help take forward new research ideas into technology prototypes and then into manufacturing demonstrators.

McDaniel: Flexible and other future bendable form factors in display will require precision engineered materials including thin film technologies that deliver performance with stringent uniformity and defect requirements at lower cost and less power. Advances in CVD and PVD systems for LTPS and metal oxide will play an important role in achieving high resolution but even these processes will require materials modification to support the full promise of flexible displays. One example of a required modification is indium tin oxide (ITO), a mainstay process step in TFT-LCD but as a material may prove to be too brittle in the production of more flexible displays.

Applied is also looking to help display makers mass produce larger scale, more efficient manufacturing processes and advanced materials as a means of gaining economies of scale at the factory.

Ciesinksi: FlexTech has funded and successfully completed projects for key steps in flex display manufacturing, such as lithography and deposition. Clearly various printing technologies and RTR additive manufacturing processes are capable of achieving major advances in flexible display production which will be seen over the next few years.

SemiMD: New display technologies that commercialise successfully have done so because they have enabled new products. The mass volume production of LCDs has helped to initiate smart phones, tablet devices, for example, while e-paper (E-Ink) display technology is largely responsible for e-reader devices such as the ubiquitous Kindle. So what potential new class of consumer/portable electronic device might flexible display technology enable? On the other hand, will the technology, in the nearer term, be more beneficial for enabling rugged/unbreakable display-based electronic devices?

McDaniel: There is a lot of potential. Think about what our phones looked like six or seven years ago. Now we’re seeing HD-quality screens on a device we can slip into our pockets. We could see flexible displays enabling devices that can be rolled up or folded into more compact shapes. Some studies have said that for a tablet, people prefer semi-rigid displays to something that is flopping around, to provide structure while they’re reading it. In the public environment flexible could bring the possibility of more immersive or interactive displays at airports or on billboards, or even on the sides of buildings. There are a lot of possibilities.

Goodwin: Rugged displays are likely to have military applications and so may attract funding support from this sector and therefore this may be a route to the first marketable products. However, the learning from the production of those rugged displays can likely be used within new mainstream product development. Many major display manufacturers are already trying to patent areas of interest such as smart watches and early products may focus on these smaller displays. Ultimately, if volume production is possible and large area displays can be produced then there is a vast range of products that can be envisaged from clothing applications, rollable/foldable phones, large scale advertising hoarding or even replacement of aircraft windows with lightweight displays.

Ciesinski: Technology adopters fall into several categories. For example, early adopters are those with the first cellular phone, the first tablet, etc. These users are willing to sacrifice elegance or product maturity for functionality. Other adopters waited until smart phones became fully functional before consolidating to a primary device from a combination of a PC, cell phone, and pager. Wearable electronics, as a class, represents a game-changing technology. A wearable device – even with limited functionality – is attractive, for example, to competitive athletes if it can help improve performance even modestly. Once wearable technology matures, it can explode into other markets to monitor the chronically ill, aged/infirm, or paediatric patients. Then, it jumps to the packaging or automotive or aerospace markets in the form of sensors.

Once flexible display technologies reach volume production, how fast might the technology establish itself – evolve from niche to mainstream?

Ciesinski: Successful technologies ramp quickly and displace incumbent technologies ruthlessly. Just consider the displacement of CRTs by FPDs or CCFL backlights by LED backlights. FlexTech believes that flexible electronics – of which flexible displays is a subset – will grow rapidly in multiple markets, led by disposable and wearable electronics. Our recent user survey indicated substantial purchases of flexible electronics by key end users within three years; adoption by large contract manufacturers is already taking place due to their customer demands.

Goodwin: This is likely to be dependent on the product uptake. For example the rise of tablets and smart phones drove the development of OLED frontplane and materials development. The same is likely to happen with flexible displays. Early products may have limited flexibility, for example the already available curved display products from LG and Samsung, but later products will need to show the truly flexible nature of these advanced displays. Once market pull is established a range of products are likely to be developed that will aid the flexible display to become a mainstream product. CPI can play a vital role in the move from niche to mainstream by providing the infrastructure and environment for companies to de-risk and scale up their innovative ideas from concept to market.

McDaniel: Five years ago, when display manufacturers wanted to start bending and curving the design, they faced a new set of struggles. Applied Materials had insights on where the market was heading and was already working on technologies to address the challenges. We have seen similar waves of technology with laptops and smartphones, and the acceleration of flexible or curved display devices or other form factors could take off in a similar manner. Display analyst firms are anticipating strong growth for the flexible and curved displays market over the next several years. For instance, Touch Display Research has forecast flexible and curved displays to achieve 16% of the global display revenue market by 2023 compared with 1% in 2013.

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