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EUV Leads the Next Generation Litho Race

Friday, October 20th, 2017

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As previously reported by Solid State Technology, the eBeam Initiative recently reported the results of its lithography perceptions and mask-makers’ surveys. After the survey results were presented at the 2017 Photomask Technology Symposium, Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S, the managing company sponsor of the eBeam Initiative, spoke with Solid State Technology about the survey results and current challenges in advanced lithography.

The Figure shows the consensus opinions of 75 luminaries from 40 companies who provided inputs to the perceptions survey regarding which Next-Generation Lithography (NGL) technologies will be used in volume manufacturing over the next few years. “We don’t want to interpret these data too much, but at the same time the information should be representative because people will be making business decisions based on this,” said Fujimura.

Figure 1

Confidence in Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) lithography is now strong, with 79 percent of respondents predicting it will be used in HVM by the end of 2021, a huge increase from 33 percent just three years ago. Another indication of aggregate confidence in EUVL technology readiness is that only 7 percent of respondents thought that “actinic mask inspection” would never be used in manufacturing, significantly reduced from 22 percent just last year.

“Asking luminaries is very meaningful, and obviously the answers are highly correlated with where the industry will be spending on technologies,” explained Fujimura. “The predictability of these sorts of things is very high. In particular in an industry with confidentiality issue, what people ‘think’ is going to happen typically reflects what they know but cannot say.”

Fujimura sees EUVL technology receiving most of the investment for next-generation lithography (NGL), “Because EUV is a universal technology. Whether you’re a memory or logic maker it’s useful for all applications. Whereas nano-imprint is only useful for defect-resistant designs like memory.”

Vivek Bakshi’s recent blog post details the current status of EUVL technology evolution. With practical limits on the source-power, many organization are looking at ways to increase the sensitivity of photoresist so as to increases the throughput of EUVL processes. Unfortunately, the physics and chemistry of photoresists means that there are inherent trade-offs between the best Resolution and Line-width-roughness (LWR) and Sensitivity, termed the “RLS triangle”.

The Critical Gases and Materials Group (CGMG) of SEMI held a recent webinar in which Greg MacIntyre, Imec’s director of patterning, discussed the inherent tradeoffs within the RLS triangle when attempting to create the smallest possible features with a single lithographic exposure. Since the resist sensitivity directly correlates to the maximum throughput of the lithographic exposure tool, there are various tricks used to improve the resolution and roughness at a given sensitivity:  optimized underlayer reflections for exposures, smoothing materials for post-develop, and hard-masks for etch integration.

Mask-Making Metrics

The business dynamics of making photomasks provides leading indicators of the IC fab industry’s technology directions. A lot of work has been devoted to keeping mask write times consistent compared with last year, while the average complexity of masks continues to increase with Reticle Enhancement Technologies (RET) to extend the resolution of optical lithography. Even with write times equal, the average mask turn-around time (TAT) is significantly greater for more critical layers, approaching 12 days for 7nm- to 10nm-node masks.

“A lot of the increase in mask TAT is coming from the data-preparation time,” explained Fujimura. “This is important for the economics and the logistics of mask shops.” The weighted average of mask data preparation time reported in the survey is significantly greater for finer masks, exceeding 21 hours for 7nm- to 10nm-nodes. Data per mask continues to increase; the most dense mask now averages 0.94 TB, and the most dense mask single mask takes 2.2 TB.

—E.K.

Embedded FPGAs Offer SoC Flexibility

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

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By Dave Lammers, Contributing Editor

It was back in 1985 that Ross Freeman invented the FPGA, gaining a fundamental patent (#4,870,302) that promised engineers the ability to use “open gates” that could be “programmed to add new functionality, adapt to changing standards or specifications, and make last-minute design changes.”

Freeman, a co-founder of Xilinx, died in 1989, too soon to see the emerging development of embedded field programmable logic arrays (eFPGAs). The IP cores offer system-on-chip (SoC) designers an ability to create hardware accelerators and to support changing algorithms. Proponents claim the approach provides advantages to artificial intelligence (AI) processors, automotive ICs, and the SoCs used in data centers, software-defined networks, 5G wireless, encryption, and other emerging applications.

With mask costs escalating rapidly, eFPGAs offer a way to customize SoCs without spinning new silicon. While eFPGAs cannot compete with custom silicon in terms of die area, the flexibility, speed, and power consumption are proving attractive.

Semico Research analyst Rich Wawrzyniak, who tracks the SoC market, said he considers eFPGAs to be “a very profound development in the industry, a capability that is going to get used in lots of places that we haven’t even imagined yet.”

While Altera, now owned by Intel, and Xilinx, have not ventured publicly into the embedded space, Wawrzyniak noted that a lively bunch of competitors are moving to offer eFPGA intellectual property (IP) cores.

Multiple competitors enter eFPGA field

Achronix Semiconductor (Santa Clara, Calif.) has branched out from its early base in stand-alone FPGAs, using Intel’s 22nm process, to an IP model. It is emphasizing its embeddable Speedcore eFPGAs that can be added to SoCs using TSMC’s 16FF foundry process. 7nm IP cores are under development.

Efinix Inc. (Santa Clara recently rolled out its Efinix Programmable Accelerator (EPA) technology.

Efinix (efinixinc.com) claims that its programmable arrays can either compete with established stand-alone FPGAs on performance, but at half the power, or can be added as IP cores to SoCs. The Efinix Programmable Accelerator technology can provide a look up table (LUT)-based logic cell or a routing switch, among other functions, the company said.

Efinix was founded by several managers with engineering experience at Altera Corp. at various times in their careers — Sammy Cheung, Tony Ngai, Jay Schleicher, and Kar Keng Chua — and has financial backing from two Malaysia-based investment funds.

Flex Logix Technologies, (Mountain View, Calif.) (www.flex-logix.com) an eFPGA startup founded in 2014, recently gained formal admittance to TSMC’s IP Alliance program. It supports a wide array of foundry processes, providing embedded FPGA IP and software tools for TSMC’s 16FFC/FF+, 28HPM/HPC, and 40ULP/LP.

Flex Logix supports several process generations at foundry TSMC. The 16nm test chip is being evaluated. (Source: Flex Logix)

QuickLogic adds SMIC to foundry roster

Menta  (http://www.menta-efpga.com/) is another competitor in the FPGA space. Based in Montpellier, France, Menta is a privately held company founded a decade ago that offers programmable logic IP targeted to both GLOBALFOUNDRIES (14LPP) and TSMC (28HPM and 28HPC+) processes.

Menta offers either pre-configured IP blocks, or custom IPs for SoCs or ASICs. The French company supports its IP with a tool set, called Origami, which generates a bitstream from RTL, including synthesis. Menta said it has fielded four generations of products that in use by customers now “for meeting the sometimes conflicting requirements of changing standards, security updates and shrinking time-to-market windows of mobile and consumer products, IoT devices, networking and automotive ICs.”

QuickLogic, a Silicon Valley stalwart founded in 1988, also is expanding its eFPGA capability. In mid-September, QuickLogic (Sunnyvale, Calif.) (quicklogic.com) announced that its eFPGA IP can now be used with the 40nm low-leakage process at Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC). QuickLogic also offers its eFPGA technology on several of the mature GLOBALFOUNDRIES processes, and is participating in the foundry’s 22FDX IP program.

Wawrzyniak, who tracks the SoC market for Semico Research, said an important market is artificial intelligence, using eFPGA gates to add a flexible convolutional neural network (CNN) capability. Indeed, Flex Logix said one of its earliest adopters is an AI research group at Harvard University that is developing a programmable AI processor.

A seminal capability

The U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) also has supported Flex Logix by taking a license, endorsing an eFPGA capability for defense and aerospace ICs used by the U.S. military.

With security being such a concern for the Internet of Things edge devices market, Wawrzyniak said eFPGA gates could be used to secure IoT devices against hackers, a potentially large market.

“The major use is in apps and instances where people need some programmability. This is a seminal, basic capability. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I wish I could put a little bit of programmability into my SoC.’ People are going to take this and run with it in ways we can’t imagine,” he said.

Bob Wheeler, networking analyst at The Linley Group, said the intellectual property (IP) model makes sense for startups. Achronix, during the dozen years it developed and then fielded its standalone FPGAs, “was on a very ambitious road, competing with Altera and Xilinx. Achronix went down the road of developing parts, and that is a tall order.”

While the cost of running an IP company is less than fielding stand-alone parts, Wheeler said “People don’t appreciate the cost of developing the software tools, to program the FPGA and configure the IP.” The compiler, in particular, is a key challenge facing any FPGA vendor.

Wheeler said Achronix https://www.achronix.com/ , has gained credibility for its tools, including its compiler, after fielding its high-performance discrete FPGAs in 2016, made on Intel’s 22nm process.

Achronix offers Speedcore eFPGAs, based on the same architecture as its standalone FPGAs. (Source: Achronix Semiconductor)

And Wheeler cautioned that IP companies face the business challenge of getting a fair return on their development efforts, especially for low-cost IoT solutions where companies maintain tight budgets for the IP that they license.

Achronix earlier this year announced that its 2017 revenues will exceed $100 million, based on a seven-times increase in sales of its Speedster 22i FPGA family, as well as licensing of its Speedcore embedded IP products, targeted to TSMC’s leading-edge 16 nm node, with 7nm process technology for design starts beginning in the second half of this year. Achronix revenues “began to significantly ramp in 2016 and the company reached profitability in Q1 2017,” said CEO Robert Blake.

Escalating mask costs

Flex Logix CEO Geoff Tate

Geoff Tate, now the CEO of Flex Logix Technologies, earlier headed up Rambus for 15 years. Tate said Flex Logix (www.flex-logix.com uses a hierarchical interconnect, developed by co-founder Cheng Wang and others while he earned his doctorate at UCLA. The innovative interconnect approach garnered the Lewis Outstanding Paper award for Wang and three co-authors at the 2014 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), and attracted attention from venture capitalists at Lux Ventures and Eclipse Ventures.

Tate said one of those VCs came to him one day and asked for an evaluation of Wang & Co.’s technology. Tate met with Wang, a native of Shanghai, and found him to be anything but a prima donna with a great idea. “He seemed very motivated, not just an R&D guy.”

While most FPGAs use a mesh interconnect in an X-Y grid of wires, Wang had come up with a hierarchical interconnect that provided high density without sacrificing performance, and proved its potential with prototype chips at UCLA.

“Chips need to be more flexible and adaptable. FPGAs give you another level of programmability,” Tate noted.

Meanwhile, potential customers in networking, data centers, and other markets were looking for ways to make their designs more flexible. An embedded FPGA block could help customers adapt a design to new wireless and networking protocols. Since mask costs were escalating, to an estimated $5 million for 16nm designs and more than double that for 7nm SoCs, customers had another reason to risk working with a startup.

TSMC has supported Flex Logix, in mid-September awarding the company the TSMC Open Innovation Platform’s Partner of the Year Award for 2017 in the category of New IP.

“Our lead customer has a working chip, with embedded FPGA on it. They are in the process of debugging rest of their chip. Overall, we are still in the early stages of market development,” Tate said, explaining that semiconductor companies are understandably risk-averse when it comes to their IP choices.

Asked about the status of its 16nm test chip, Tate said “the silicon is out of the fab. The next step is packaging, then evaluation board assembly.  We should be doing validation testing starting in late September.”

Potential customers are in the process of sending engineers to Flex Logix to look at metrics of the largest 16nm arrays, such as IR drop, vest vectors, switching simulations, and the like. “They making sure we are testing in a thorough fashion. If we screw them over, they’ll tell everybody, so we have got to get it right the first time,” Tate said.

GlobalFoundries Turns the Corner

Friday, September 29th, 2017

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By David Lammers

Claiming that GlobalFoundries “is a different company than two years ago,” executives said the foundry’s strategies are starting to pay off in emerging markets such as 5G wireless, automotive, and high-performance processors.

CEO Sanjay Jha, speaking at the GlobalFoundries Technology Conference, held in Santa Clara, Calif. recently, said that to succeed in the foundry segment requires that customers “have confidence that they are going to get their wafers at the right time and with the right quality. That has taken time, but we are there.”

CEO Sanjay Jha: “differentiated” processes are key.

Innovation is another essential requirement for success, Jha said, arguing that R&D dollars must include spending on “differentiated” approaches. Alain Mutricy, senior vice president of product development, acknowledged that only recently have customers turned to GlobalFoundries as more than just a second-source to TSMC. For the first few years, “most companies used us to keep (wafer) prices down,” he said, while noting GlobalFoundries bears some responsibility for that by not investing nearly enough, early on, in IP libraries and EDA tool development.

Founded in March 2009 as a spinout of the manufacturing arm of Advanced Micro Devices, Global Foundries’ Abu Dhabi-based owner soon acquired Singapore’s Chartered Semiconductor in January 2010, and further expanded through the July 2015 acquisition of IBM Microelectronics. It is now engaged in building what Jha said will be the largest wafer fab in China, in Chengdu, capable of processing a million wafers a year. The Chengdu fab, operated by GlobalFoundries but with investments from the local government, will begin with 180nm and 130nm products now fabbed in Singapore, and then add 22FDX IC production to meet demand from Chinese customers.

While the road to profitability has been a hard one, Len Jelinek, chief technology analyst at HIS Markit, said GlobalFoundries is now “cash flow positive,” with the flagship Malta, N.Y. fab “essentially full” at an estimated 40,000 wafer starts per month. That is a big turnaround from four years ago, he said.

Malta fab’s capacity doubling

Nathan Brookwood, longtime microprocessor watcher at Insight64, said while AMD no longer has an ownership stake in GlobalFoundries, it does have wafer supply agreements with the foundry. The fact that AMD’s Zen-based microprocessors and newest graphics chips are all made on the 14nm Finfet process at Fab 8 “means that AMD is now actually using the wafer supply it is committed to taking. That helps both companies.”

Andrea Lati, director of market research at VLSI Research, said while TSMC “is clearly a very well-run company that is marching ahead,” GlobalFoundries also is making progress. Again, AMD’s success is a large part of that, Lati said, noting that “AMD is definitely doing very well for the last couple of years, and has good prospects, along with Nvidia, in the graphics side.”

In a telephone interview, Tom Caulfield, senior vice president and general manager of the GlobalFoundries’ Malta fab, said “we are continually adding capacity in 14nm as we get a window on to the demand from our customers. In 2016 and 2017 we made additional investments.”

While not putting a specific number on Malta’s capacity, Caulfield said that if the beginning of 2016 is taken as a baseline, by the end of 2018 the wafer capacity at Malta’s Fab 8 will have more than doubled.

“AMD refreshed its entire portfolio with 14nm, exclusively made here at Malta, and we are chasing more demand than we planned on. AMD’s success is a proxy for our success. We are in this hand in hand,” Caulfield said.

Asked if a new fab was being considered at Malta, Caulfield said “At some point we will need more brick and mortar. Eventually we will run out of space, but we still have some time in front of us.

FDX in the wings

Scotten Jones, who runs a semiconductor cost modeling consultancy, IC Knowledge LLC, said competition is also heating up at the 28nm node, once controlled almost exclusively by TSMC. As GlobalFoundries, Samsung — and more recently, SMIC and UMC — have ironed out their own 28nm processes, the profitability of TSMC’s 28nm business has tightened, Jones said.

The competitive spotlight is now on the 22FDX SOI-based process developed by GlobalFoundries, buttressed by an embedded 22nm eMRAM capability developed along with MRAM pioneer Everspin Technologies.

Gary Patton, chief technology officer at GlobalFoundries, said the SOI-based 22nm node supports forward biasing, while the 12nm FDX technology will support both forward and back-biasing, to either boost performance or conserve power. Patton said the 12FDX process will provide 26 percent more performance and 47 percent less power consumption than the 22FDX process, with prototypes expected in the second half of 2018 and volume production beginning in 2019.

CTO Gary Patton: Technology development boosted by IBM engineers.

Patton said “maybe we haven’t done enough” to explain the differences between the 14nm FinFet technology and the SOI-based FDX technologies. The FinFET transistors have enough drive current to drive signals across fairly large die sizes, while the FDX technology is best suited to die sizes of 150 sq. mm and smaller, he said.

Jones said his cost analysis shows that the design costs for the planar FDX chips are much less expensive than for FinFETs, which require “some fairly expensive EDA tools.” That combines with a much smaller mask count, due to multi-patterning.

Patton said the 22FDX designs require 40 percent fewer masks that comparable 14nm FinFET-based designs. “With the SOI technology customers have the option of using body biasing, which has been used in the industry for the past three or four years. We can operate at .4 Volts, and customers are putting RF on the same chip as digital.”

Asked if he thought the FDX processes would gain traction in the marketplace, Jones answered in the affirmative. “I think it will find its place. It is still early. These kinds of new technologies take time to get established,” Jones said.

Jha said two companies have developed products based on 22FDX, Dream Chip Technologies, an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) supplier, which last February said it has completed a computer vision SoC based on the 22FDX process, and Ineda Systems, which seeks to integrate RF and digital capabilities on its 22FDX-based processors, targeted at the Internet of Things market.

Mutricy said 70 companies purchased the 22FDX foundation IP provided by Invecas for the 22FDX process, with 18 tapeouts on track for production next year.

Patton said the addition of 500 technologists from IBM’s microelectronics division has aided the technology development operation. “GlobalFoundries is absolutely a different company than it was just two years ago,” Patton said at the GTC event.

Silicon Photonics Technology Developments

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

With rapidly increasing use of “Cloud” client:server computing there is motivation to find cost-savings in the Cloud hardware, which leads to R&D of improved photonics chips. Silicon photonics chips could reduce hardware costs compared to existing solutions based on indium-phosphide (InP) compound semiconductors, but only with improved devices and integration schemes. Now MIT researchers working within the US AIM Photonics program have shown important new silicon photonics properties. Meanwhile, GlobalFoundries has found a way to allow for automated passive alignment of optical fibers to silicon chips, and makes chips on 300mm silicon wafers for improved performance at lower cost.

In a recent issue of Nature Photonics, MIT researchers present “Electric field-induced second-order nonlinear optical effects in silicon waveguides.” They also report prototypes of two different silicon devices that exploit those nonlinearities: a modulator, which encodes data onto an optical beam, and a frequency doubler, a component vital to the development of lasers that can be precisely tuned to a range of different frequencies.

This work happened within the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) program, which brought government, industry, and academia together in R&D of photonics to better position the U.S. relative to global competition. Federal funding of $110 million was combined with some $500 million from AIM Photonics’ consortium of state and local governments, manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations across the country. Michael Watts, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, has led the technological innovation in silicon photonics.

“Now you can build a phase modulator that is not dependent on the free-carrier effect in silicon,” says Michael Watts in an online interview. “The benefit there is that the free-carrier effect in silicon always has a phase and amplitude coupling. So whenever you change the carrier concentration, you’re changing both the phase and the amplitude of the wave that’s passing through it. With second-order nonlinearity, you break that coupling, so you can have a pure phase modulator. That’s important for a lot of applications.”

The first author on the new paper is Erman Timurdogan, who completed his PhD at MIT last year and is now at the silicon-photonics company Analog Photonics. The frequency doubler uses regions of p- and n-doped silicon arranged in regularly spaced bands perpendicular to an undoped silicon waveguide. The space between bands is tuned to a specific wavelength of light, such that a voltage across them doubles the frequency of the optical signal passing. Frequency doublers can be used as precise on-chip optical clocks and amplifiers, and as terahertz radiation sources for security applications.

GlobalFoundries’ Packaging Prowess

At the start of the AIM Photonics program in 2015, MIT researchers had demonstrated light detectors built from efficient ring resonators that they could reduce the energy cost of transmitting a bit of information down to about a picojoule, or one-tenth of what all-electronic chips require. Jagdeep Shah, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Institute for Defense Analyses who initiated the program that sponsored the work said, “I think that the GlobalFoundries process was an industry-standard 45-nanometer design-rule process.”

The Figure shows that researchers at IBM developed an automated method to assemble twelve optical fibers to a
silicon chip while the fibers are dark, and GlobalFoundries chips can now be paired with this assembly technology. Because the micron-scale fibers must be aligned with nanometer precision, default industry standard has been to expensively align actively lit fibers. Leveraging the company’s work for Micro-Electro-Mechanical Sensors (MEMS) customers, GlobalFoundries uses an automated pick-and-place tool to push ribbons of multiple fibers into MEMS groves for the alignment. Ted Letavic, Global Foundries’ senior fellow, said the edge coupling process was in production for a telecommunications application. Silicon photonics may find first applications for very high bandwidth, mid- to long-distance transmission (30 meters to 80 kilometers), where spectral efficiency is the key driver according to Letavic.

FIGURE: GlobalFoundries chips can be combined with IBM’s automated method to assemble 12 optical fibers to a silicon photonics chip. (Source: IBM, Tymon Barwicz et al.)

GobalFoundries has now transferred its monolithic process from 200mm to 300mm-diameter silicon wafers, to achieve both cost-reduction and improved device performance. The 300mm fab lines feature higher-N.A. immersion lithography tools which provide better overlay and line width roughness (LWR). Because the of the extreme sensitivity of optical coupling to the physical geometry of light-guides, improving the patterning fidelity by nanometers can reduce transmission losses by 3X.

—E.K.

SiPs Simplify Wireless IoT Design

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

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By Dave Lammers, Contributing Editor

It takes a range of skills to create a successful business in the Internet of Things space, where chips sell for a few dollars and competition is intense. Circuit design and software support for multiple wireless standards must combine with manufacturing capabilities.

Daniel Cooley, senior vice president of IoT products at Silicon Labs

Daniel Cooley, senior vice president and general manager of IoT products at Silicon Labs (Austin, Tx.), said three trends are impacting the manufacture of IoT end-node devices, which usually combine an MCU, an RF transceiver, and embedded flash memory.

“There is an explosion in the amount of memory on embedded SoCs, both RAM and non-volatile memory,” said Cooley. Today’s multi-protocol wireless software stacks, graphics processing, and security requirements routinely double or quadruple the memory sizes of the past.

Secondly, while IoT edge devices continue to use trailing-edge technologies, nonetheless they also are moving to more advanced nodes. However, that movement is partially gated by the availability of embedded flash.

Thirdly, pre-certified system-in-package (SiP) solutions, running a proven software stack, “are becoming much more important,” Cooley said. These SiPs typically encapsulate an MCU, an integrated antenna and shielding, power management, crystal oscillators, and inductors and capacitors. While Silicon Labs has been shipping multi-chip modules for many years, SiPs are gaining favor in part because they can be quickly deployed by engineers with relatively little expertise in wireless development, he said.

“Personally, I believe that very advanced SIPs increasingly will be standard products, not anything exotic. They are a complete solution, like a PCB module, but encased with a molding compound. The SiP manufacturers are becoming very sophisticated, and we are ready to take that technology and apply it more broadly,” he said.

For example, Silicon Labs recently introduced a Bluetooth SiP module measuring 6.5 by 6.5 mm, designed for use in sports and fitness wearables, smartwatches, personal medical devices, wireless sensor nodes, and other space-constrained connected devices.

“We have built multi-chip packages – those go back to the first products of the company – but we haven’t done a fully certified module with a built-in antenna until now. A SiP module simplifies the go-to-market process. Customers can just put it down on a PCB and connect power and ground. Of course, they can attach other chips with the built-in interfaces, but they don’t need anything else to make the Bluetooth system work,” Cooley said.

“Designing with a certified SiP module supports better data throughput, and improves reliability as well. The SiP approach is especially beneficial for end-node customers which “haven’t gone through the process of launching a wireless product in in the market,” Cooley said.

System-in-package (SiP) solutions ease the design cycle for engineers using Bluetooth and low low-energy wireless networks. (Source: Silicon Laboratories).

The SiP packages a wireless SoC with an antenna and multiple other components in a small footprint.

Control by voice

The BGM12x Blue Gecko SiP is aimed at Bluetooth-enabled applications, a genre that is rapidly expanding as ecosystems like the Amazon Echo, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home proliferate.

The BGM12x Blue Gecko SiP is aimed at Bluetooth-enabled applications

Matt Maupin is Silicon Labs’ product marketing manager for mesh networking products, which includes SoCs and modules for low-power Zigbee and Thread wireless connectivity. Asked how a home lighting system, for example, might be connected to one of the home “ecosystems” now being sold by Amazon, Apple, Google, Nest, and others, Maupin said the major lighting suppliers, such as OSRAM, Philips, and others, often use Zigbee for lighting, rather than Bluetooth, because of Zigbee’s mesh networking capability. (Some manufactures use Bluetooth low energy (BLE) for point-to-point control from a phone.)

“The ability for a device to connect directly relies on the same protocols being used. Google and Amazon products do not support Zigbee or Thread connectivity at this time,” Maupin explained.

Normally, these lighting devices are connected to a hub. For example, Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home “both control the Philips lights through the Philips hub. Communication happens over the Ethernet network (wireless or wired depending on the hub).  The Philips hub also supports HomeKit so that will work as well,” he said.

Maupin’s home configuration is set up so the Philips lights connect via Zigbee to the Philips hub, which connects to an Ethernet network. An Amazon Echo is connected to the Ethernet Network by WiFi.

“I have the Philips devices at home configured via their app. For example, I have lights in my bedroom configured differently for me and my wife. With voice commands, I can control these lamps with different commands such as ‘Alexa, turn off Matt’s lamp,’ or ‘Alexa, turn off the bedroom lamps.’”

Alexa communicates wirelessly to the Ethernet Network, which then goes to the Philips hub (which is sold under the brand name Philips Hue Bridge) via Ethernet, where the Philips hub then converts that to Zigbee to control that actual lamps. While that sounds complicated, Maupin said, “to consumers, it is just magic.”

A divided IoT market

Sandeep Kumar, senior vice president of worldwide operations

IoT systems can be divided into the high-performance number crunchers which deal with massive amounts of data, and the “end-node” products which drive a much different set of requirements. Sandeep Kumar, senior vice president of worldwide operations at Silicon Labs, said RF, ultra-low-power processes and embedded NVM are essential for many end-node applications, and it can take several years for foundries to develop them beyond the base technology becoming available.

“40nm is an old technology node for the big digital companies. For IoT end nodes where we need a cost-effective RF process with ultra-low leakage and embedded NVM, the state of the art is 55nm; 40 nm is just getting ready,” Kumar said.

Embedded flash or any NVM takes as long as it does because, most often, it is developed not by the foundries themselves but by independent companies, such as Silicon Storage Technology. The foundry will implement this IP after the foundry has developed the base process. (SST has been part of Microchip Technology since 2010.) Typically, the eFlash capability lags by a few years for high-volume uses, and Kumar notes that “the 40nm eFlash is still not in high-volume production for end-node devices.”

Similarly, the ultra-low-leakage versions of a technology node take time and equipment investments, as well as cooperation from IP partners. Foundry customers and the fabless design houses must requalify for the low-leakage processes. “All the models change and simulations have to be redone,” Kumar said.

“We need low-leakage for the end applications that run on a button cell (battery), so that a security door or motion sensor, for example, can run for five to seven years. After the base technology is developed, it typically takes at least three years. If 40nm was available several years ago, the ultra-low-leakage process is just becoming available now.

“And some foundries may decide not to do ultra-low-leakage on certain technology nodes. It is a big capital and R&D investment to do ultra-low-leakage. Foundries have to make choices, and we have to manage that,” Kumar said.

The majority of Silicon Labs’ IoT product volume is in 180nm, while other non-IoT products use a 55nm process. The line of Blue Gecko wireless SoCs currently is on 90nm, made in 300mm fabs, while new designs are headed toward more advanced process nodes.

Because 180nm fabs are being used for MEMS, sensors and other analog-intensive, high-volume products, there is still “somewhat of a shortage” of 180nm wafers, Kumar said, though the situation is improving. “It has gotten better because TSMC and other foundries have added capacity, having heard from several customers that the 180nm node is where they are going to stay, or at least stay longer than they expected. While the foundries have added equipment and capital, it is still quite tight. I am sure the big MEMS and sensor companies are perfectly happy with 180nm,” Kumar said.

A testing advantage

IoT is a broad-based market with thousands of customers and a lot of small volume customizations. Over the past decade Silicon Labs has deployed a proprietary ultra-low-cost tester, developed in-house and used in internal back-end operations in Austin and Singapore at assembly and test subcontractors and at a few outside module makers as well. The Silicon Labs tester is much more cost effective than commercially available testers, an important cost advantage in a market where a wireless MCU can sell in small volumes to a large number of customers for just a few dollars.

“Testing adds costs, and it is a critical part of our strategy. We use our internally developed tester for our broad-based products, and it is effective at managing costs,” Kumar said.

High-NA EUV Lithography Investment

Monday, November 28th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

As covered in a recent press release, leading lithography OEM ASML invested EUR 1 billion in cash to buy 24.9% of ZEISS subsidiary Carl Zeiss SMT, and committed to spend EUR ~760 million over the next 6 years on capital expenditures and R&D of an entirely new high numerical aperture (NA) extreme ultra-violet (EUV) lithography tool. Targeting NA >0.5 to be able to print 8 nm half-pitch features, the planned tool will use anamorphic mirrors to reduce shadowing effects from nanometer-scale mask patterns. Clever design and engineering of the mirrors could allow this new NA >0.5 tool to be able to achieve wafer throughputs similar to ASML’s current generation of 0.33 NA tools for the same source power and resist speed.

The Numerical Aperture (NA) of an optical system is a dimensionless number that characterizes the range of angles over which the system can accept or emit light. Higher NA systems can resolve finer features by condensing light from a wider range of angles. Mirror surfaces to reflect EUV “light” are made from over 50 atomic-scale bi-layers of molybdenum (Mo) and silicon (Si), and increasing the width of mirrors to reach higher NA increases the angular spread of the light which results in shadows within patterns.

In the proceedings of last year’s European Mask and Lithography Conference, Zeiss researchers reported on  “Anamorphic high NA optics enabling EUV lithography with sub 8 nm resolution” (doi:10.1117/12.2196393). The abstract summarizes the inherent challenges of establishing high NA EUVL technology:

For such a high-NA optics a configuration of 4x magnification, full field size of 26 x 33 mm² and 6’’ mask is not feasible anymore. The increased chief ray angle and higher NA at reticle lead to non-acceptable mask shadowing effects. These shadowing effects can only be controlled by increasing the magnification, hence reducing the system productivity or demanding larger mask sizes. We demonstrate that the best compromise in imaging, productivity and field split is a so-called anamorphic magnification and a half field of 26 x 16.5 mm² but utilizing existing 6’’ mask infrastructure.

Figure 1 shows that ASML plans to introduce such a system after the year 2020, with a throughput of 185 wafers-per-hour (wph) and with overlay of <2 nm. Hans Meiling, ASML vice president of product management EUV, in an exclusive interview with Solid State Technology explained why >0.5 NA capability will not be upgradable on 0.33 NA tools, “the >0.5NA optical path is larger and will require a new platform. The anamorphic imaging will also require stage architectural changes.”

Fig.1: EUVL stepper product plans for wafers per hour (WPH) and overlay accuracy include change from 0.33 NA to a new >0.5 NA platform. (Source: ASML)

Overlay of <2 nm will be critical when patterning 8nm half-pitch features, particularly when stitching lines together between half-fields patterned by single-exposures of EUV. Minimal overlay is also needed for EUV to be used to cut grid lines that are initially formed by pitch-splitting ArFi. In addition to the high NA set of mirrors, engineers will have to improve many parts of the stepper to be able to improve on the 3 nm overlay capability promised for the NXE:3400B 0.33 NA tool ASML plans to ship next year.

“Achieving better overlay requires improvements in wafer and reticle stages regardless of NA,” explained Meiling. “The optics are one of the many components that contribute to overlay. Compare to ArF immersion lithography, where the optics NA has been at 1.35 for several generations but platform improvements have provided significant overlay improvements.”

Manufacturing Capability Plans

Figure 2 shows that anamorphic systems require anamorphic masks, so moving from 0.33 to >0.5 NA requires re-designed masks. For relatively large chips, two adjacent exposures with two different anamorphic masks will be needed to pattern the same field area which could be imaged with lower resolution by a single 0.33 NA exposure. Obviously, such adjacent exposures of one layer must be properly “stitched” together by design, which is another constraint on electronic design automation (EDA) software.

Fig.2: Anamorphic >0.5 NA EUVL system planned by ASML and Zeiss will magnify mask images by 4x in the x-direction and 8x in the y-direction. (Source: Carl Zeiss SMT)

Though large chips will require twice as many half-field masks, use of anamorphic imaging somewhat reduces the challenges of mask-making. Meiling reminds us that, “With the anamorphic imaging, the 8X direction conditions will actually relax, while the 4X direction will require incremental improvements such as have always been required node-on-node.”

ASML and Zeiss report that ideal holes which “obscure” the centers of mirrors can surprisingly allow for increased transmission of EUV by each mirror, up to twice that of the “unobscured” mirrors in the 0.33 NA tool. The holes allow the mirrors to reflect through each-other, so they all line up and reflect better. Theoretically then each >0.5 NA half-field can be exposed twice as fast as a 0.33 NA full-field, though it seems that some system throughput loss will be inevitable. Twice the number of steps across the wafer will have to slow down throughput by some percent.

White two stitched side-by-side >0.5 NA EUVL exposures will be challenging, the generally known alternatives seem likely to provide only lower throughputs and lower yields:

*   Double-exposure of full-field using 0.33 NA EUVL,

*   Octuple-exposure of full-field using ArFi, or

*   Quadruple-exposure of full-field using ArFi complemented by e-beam direct-writing (EbDW) or by directed self-assembly (DSA).

One ASML EUVL system for HVM is expected to cost ~US$100 million. As presented at the company’s October 31st Investor Day this year, ASML’s modeling indicates that a leading-edge logic fab running ~45k wafer starts per month (WSPM) would need to purchase 7-12 EUV systems to handle an anticipated 6-10 EUV layers within “7nm-node” designs. Assuming that each tool will cost >US$100 million, a leading logic fab would have to invest ~US$1 billion to be able to use EUV for critical lithography layers.

With near US$1 billion in capital investments needed to begin using EUVL, HVM fabs want to be able to get productive value out of the tools over more than a single IC product generation. If a logic fab invests US$1 billion to use 0.33 NA EUVL for the “7nm-node” there is risk that those tools will be unproductive for “5nm-node” designs expected a few years later. Some fabs may choose to push ArFi multi-patterning complemented by another lithography technology for a few years, and delay investment in EUVL until >0.5 NA tools become available.

—E.K.

Air-Gaps for FinFETs Shown at IEDM

Friday, October 28th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Researchers from IBM and Globalfoundries will report on the first use of “air-gaps” as part of the dielectric insulation around active gates of “10nm-node” finFETs at the upcoming International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) of the IEEE (ieee-iedm.org). Happening in San Francisco in early December, IEDM 2016 will again provide a forum for the world’s leading R&D teams to show off their latest-greatest devices, including 7nm-node finFETs by IBM/Globalfoundries/Samsung and by TSMC. Air-gaps reduce the dielectric capacitance that slows down ICs, so their integration into transistor structures leads to faster logic chips.

History of Airgaps – ILD and IPD

As this editor recently covered at SemiMD, in 1998, Ben Shieh—then a researcher at Stanford University and now a foundry interface for Apple Corp.—first published (Shieh, Saraswat & McVittie. IEEE Electron Dev. Lett., January 1998) on the use of controlled pitch design combined with CVD dielectrics to form “pinched-off keyholes” in cross-sections of inter-layer dielectrics (ILD).

In 2007, IBM researchers showed a way to use sacrificial dielectric layers as part of a subtractive process that allows air-gaps to be integrated into any existing dielectric structure. In an interview with this editor at that time, IBM Fellow Dan Edelstein explained, “we use lithography to etch a narrow channel down so it will cap off, then deliberated damage the dielectric and etch so it looks like a balloon. We get a big gap with a drop in capacitance and then a small slot that gets pinched off.

Intel presented on their integration of air-gaps into on-chip interconnects at IITC in 2010 but delayed use until the company’s 14nm-node reached production in 2014. 2D-NAND fabs have been using air-gaps as part of the inter-poly dielectric (IPD) for many years, so there is precedent for integration near the gate-stack.

Airgaps for finFETs

Now researchers from IBM and Globalfoundries will report in (IEDM Paper #17.1, “Air Spacer for 10nm FinFET CMOS and Beyond,” K. Cheng et al) on the first air-gaps used at the transistor level in logic. Figure 1 shows that for these “10nm-node” finFETs the dielectric spacing—including the air-gap and both sides of the dielectric liner—is about 10 nm. The liner needs to be ~2nm thin so that ~1nm of ultra-low-k sacrificial dielectric remains on either side of the ~5nm air-gap.

Fig.1: Schematic of partial air-gaps only above fin tops using dielectric liners to protect gate stacks during air-gap formation for 10nm finFET CMOS and beyond. (source: IEDM 2016, Paper#17.1, Fig.12)

These air-gaps reduced capacitance at the transistor level by as much as 25%, and in a ring oscillator test circuit by as much as 15%. The researchers say a partial integration scheme—where the air-gaps are formed only above the tops of fin— minimizes damage to the FinFET, as does the high-selectivity etching process used to fabricate them.

Figure 2 shows a cross-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of what can go wrong with etch-back air-gaps when all of the processes are not properly controlled. Because there are inherent process:design interactions needed to form repeatable air-gaps of desired shapes, this integration scheme should be extendable “beyond” the “10-nm node” to finFETs formed at tighter pitches. However, it seems likely that “5nm-node” logic FETs will use arrays of horizontal silicon nano-wires (NW), for which more complex air-gap integration schemes would seem to be needed.

Fig.2: TEM image of FinFET transistor damage—specifically, erosion of the fin and source-drain epitaxy—by improper etch-back of the air-gaps at 10nm dimensions. (source: IEDM 2016, Paper#17.1, Fig.10)

—E.K.

Has SOI’s Turn Come Around Again?

Monday, October 10th, 2016

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By David Lammers, Contributing Editor

When analyst Linley Gwennap is asked about the chances that fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) technology will make it in the marketplace, he gives a short history lesson.

First, he makes clear that the discussion is not about “the older SOI,” – the partially depleted SOI that required designers to deal with the so-called “kink effect.” The FD-SOI being offered by STMicroelectronics and Samsung at 28nm design rules, and by GlobalFoundries at 22nm and 12nm, is a different animal: a fully depleted channel, new IP libraries, and no kink effect.

Bulk planar CMOS transistor scaling came to an end at 28nm, and leading-edge companies such as Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries moved into the finFET realm for performance-driven products, said Gwennap, founder of The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.) and publisher of The Microprocessor Report, said,

While FD-SOI at the 28nm node was offered by STMicrelectronics, with Samsung coming in as a second source, Gwennap said 28nm FD-SOI was not differentiated enough from 28nm bulk CMOS to justify the extra design and wafer costs. “When STMicro came out with 28 FD, it was more expensive than bulk CMOS, so the value proposition was not that great.”

NXP uses 28nm FD-SOI for its iMX 7 and iMX 8 processors, but relatively few other companies did 28nm FD-SOI designs. That may change as 22nm FD-SOI offers a boost in transistor density, and a roadmap to tighter design rules.

“For planar CMOS, Moore’s Law came to a dead end at 28nm. Some companies have looked at finFETs and decided that the cost barrier is just too high. They don’t have anywhere to go; for a few years now those companies have been at 28nm, they can’t justify the move on to finFETs, and they need to figure out how they can offer something new to their customers. For those companies, taking a risk on FD-SOI is starting to look like a good idea,” he said.

A cautious view

Joanne Itow, foundry analyst at Semico Research (Phoenix), also has been observing the ups and downs of SOI technology over the last two decades. The end of the early heyday, marked by PD-SOI-based products from IBM, Advanced Micro Devices, Freescale Semiconductor, and several game system vendors, has led Itow to take a cautious, Show-Me attitude.

“The SOI proponents always said, ‘this is the breakout node,’ but then it didn’t happen. Now, they are saying the Fmax has better results than finFETs, and while we do see some promising results, I’m not sure everybody knows what to do with it. And there may be bottlenecks,” such as the design tools and IP cores.

Itow said she has talked to more companies that are looking at FD-SOI, and some of them have teams designing products. “So we are seeing more serious activity than before,” Itow said. “I don’t see it being the main Qualcomm process for high-volume products like the applications processors in smartphones. But I do see it being looked at for IoT applications that will come on line in a couple of years. And these things always seem to take longer than you think,” she said.

Sony Corp. has publicly discussed a GPS IC based on 28nm FD-SOI that is being deployed in a smartwatch sold by Huami, a Chinese brand, which is touting the long battery life of the watch when the GPS function is turned on.

GlobalFoundries claims it has more than 50 companies in various stages of development on its 22FDX process, which enters risk production early next year, and the company plans a 12nm FDX offering in several years.

IP libraries put together

The availability of design libraries – both foundation IP and complex cores – is an issue facing FD-SOI. Gwennap said GlobalFoundries has worked with EDA partners, and invested in an IP development company, Invecas, to develop an IP library for its FDX technology. “Even though GlobalFoundries is basically starting from scratch in terms of putting together an IP library, it doesn’t take that long to put together the basic IP, such as the interface cells, that their customers need.

“There is definitely going to be an unusual thing that probably will not be in the existing library, something that either GlobalFoundries or the customers will have to put together. Over time, I believe that the IP portfolio will get built out,” Gwennap said.

The salaries paid to design engineers in Asia tend to be less than half of what U.S.-based designers are paid, he noted. That may open up companies “with a lower cost engineering team” in India, China, Taiwan, and elsewhere to “go off in a different direction” and experiment with FD-SOI, Gwennap said.

Philippe Flatresses, a design architect at STMicro, said with the existing FDSOI ecosystem it is possible to design a complete SoC, including processor cores from ARM Ltd., high speed interfaces, USB, MIPI, memory controllers, and other IP from third-party providers including Synopsys and Cadence. Looking at the FD-SOI roadmap, several technology derivatives are under development to address the RF, ultra-low voltage, and other markets. Flatresses said there is a need to extend the IP ecosystem in those areas.

Wafer costs not a big factor

There was a time when the approximately $500 cost for an SOI wafer from Soitec (Grenoble, France) tipped the scales away from SOI technology for some cost-sensitive applications. Gwennap said when a fully processed 28nm planar CMOS wafer cost about $3,000 from a major foundry, that $500 SOI wafer cost presented a stumbling block to some companies considering FD-SOI.

Now, however, a fully-processed finFET wafer costs $7,000 or more from the major foundries, Gwennap said, and the cost of the SOI wafer is a much smaller fraction of the total cost equation. When companies compare planar FD-SOI to finFETs, that $500 wafer cost, Gwennap said, “just isn’t as important as it used to be. And some of the other advantages in terms of cost savings or power savings are pretty attractive in markets where cost is important, such as consumer and IoT products. They present a good chance to get some key design wins.”

Soitec claims it can ramp up to 1.5 million FD-SOI wafers a year with its existing facility in 18 months, and has the ability to expand to 3 million wafers if market demand expands.

Jamie Schaeffer, the FDX program manager at GlobalFoundries, acknowledges that the SOI wafers are three to four times more expensive than bulk silicon wafers. Schaeffer said a more important cost factor is in the mask set. A 22FDX chip with eight metal layers can be constructed with “just 39 mask layers, compared with 60 for a finFET design at comparable performance levels.” And no double patterning is required for the 22FDX transistors.

Technology advantages claimed

Soitec senior fellow Bich-Yen Nguyen, who spent much of her career at Freescale Semiconductor in technology development, claims several technical advantages for FD-SOI.

FD-SOI has a high transconductance-to-drain current ratio, is superior in terms of the short channel effect, and has a lower fringing and effective capacitance and lower gate resistance, due partly to a gate-first process approach to the high-k/metal gate steps, Nguyen said.

Back and forward biasing is another unique feature of FD-SOI. “When you apply body-bias, the fT and fmax curves shift to a lower Vt.  This is an additional benefit allowing the RF designer to achieve higher fT and fmax at much lower gate voltage (Vg) over a wider Vg range.  That is a huge benefit for the RF designer,” she said. Figure 1 illustrates the unique benefit of back-bias.

Figure 1. The unique benefit of back-bias is illustrated. Source: GlobalFoundries.

“To get the full benefit of body bias for power savings or performance improvement, the design teams must consider this feature from the very beginning of product development,” she said. While biasing does not require specific EDA tools, and can be achieve with an extended library characterization, design architects must define the best corners for body bias in order to gain in performance and power. And design teams must implement “the right set of IPs to manage body biasing,” such as a BB generator, BB monitors, and during testing, a trimming methodology.

Nguyen acknowledged that finFETs have drive-current advantages. But compared with bulk CMOS, FD-SOI has superior electrostatics, which enables scaling of analog/RF devices while maintaining a high transistor gain. And drive current increases as gate length is scaled, she said.

For 14/16 nm finFETs, Nguyen said the gate length is in the 25-30 nm range. The 22FDX transistors have a gate length in the 20nm range. “The very short gate length results in a small gate capacitance, and total lower gate resistance,” she said.

For fringing capacitance, the most conservative number is that 22nm FD-SOI is 30 percent lower than leading finFETs, though she said “finFETs have made a lot of progress in this area.”

Analog advantages

It is in the analog and RF areas that FD-SOI offers the most significant advantages, Nguyen said. The fT and fMAX of 350 and 300 GHz, respectively, have been demonstrated by GlobalFoundries for its 22nm FD-SOI technology. For analog devices, she claimed that FD-SOI offers better transistor mismatch, high intrinsic device gain (Gm/Gds ratio), low noise, and flexibility in Vt tuning. Figure 2 shows how 22FDX outperforms finFETs for fT/fMax.

Figure 2. 22FDX outperforms finFETs for fT/fMax. Source: GlobalFoundries.

“FDSOI is the only device architecture that meets all those requirements. Bulk planar CMOS suffers from large transistor mismatch due to random dopant fluctuation and low device gain due to poor electrostatics. FinFET technology improves on electrostatics but it lacks the back bias capability.”

The undoped channel takes away the random doping effect of a partially depleted (doped) channel, reducing variation by 50-60 percent.

Analog designers using FD-SOI, she said, have “the ability to tune the Vt by back-bias to compensate for process mismatch or drift, and to offer virtually any Vt desired. Near-zero Vt can also be achieved in FD-SOI, which enables low voltage analog design for low power consumption applications.”

“If you believe the future is about mobility, about more communications and low power consumption and cost sensitive IoT chips where analog and RF is about 50 percent of the chip, then FD-SOI has a good future.

“No single solution can fit all. The key is to build up the ecosystem, and with time, we are pushing that,” she said.

D2S Releases 4th-Gen IC Computational Design Platform

Friday, September 30th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

D2S (www.design2silicon.com) recently released the fourth generation of its computational design platform (CDP), which enables extremely fast (400 Teraflops) and precise simulations for semiconductor design and manufacturing. The new CDP is based on NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs and Intel Haswell CPUs, and is architected for 24×7 cleanroom production environments. To date, 14 CDPs across four platform generations are in use by customers around the globe, including six of the latest fourth generation. In an exclusive interview with SemiMD, D2S CEO Aki Fujimura stated, “Now that GPUs and CPUs are fast-enough, they can replace other hardware and thereby free up engineering resources to focus on adding value elsewhere.”

Mask data preparation (MDP) and other aspects of IC design and manufacturing require ever-increasing levels of speed and reliability as the data sets upon which they must operate grow larger and more complex with each device generation. The Figure shows a mask needed to print arrays of sub-wavelength features includes complex curvilinear shapes which must be precisely formed even though they do not print on the wafer. Such sub-resolution assist features (SRAF) increase in complexity and density as the half-pitch decreases, so the complexity of mask data increases far more than the density of printed features.

Sub-wavelength lithography using 193nm wavelength requires ever-more complex masks to repeatably print ever smaller half-pitch (HP) features, as shown by (LEFT) a typical mask composed of complex nested curves and dots which do not print (RIGHT) in the array of 32nm HP contacts/vias represented by the small red circles. (Source: D2S)

GPUs, which were first developed as processing engines for the complex graphical content of computer games, have since emerged as an attractive option for compute-intensive scientific applications due in part to their ability to run many more computing threads (up to 500x) compared to similar-generation CPUs. “Being able to process arbitrary shapes is something that mask shops will have to do,” explained Fujimura. “The world could go 193nm or EUV at any particular node, but either way there will be more features and higher complexity within the features, and all of that points to GPU acceleration.”

The D2S CDP is engineered for high reliability inside a cleanroom manufacturing environment. A few of the fab applications where CDPs are currently being used include:

  • model-based MDP for leading-edge designs that require increasingly complex mask shapes,
  • wafer plane analysis of SEM mask images to identify mask errors that print, and
  • inline thermal-effect correction of eBeam mask writers to lower write times.

“The amount of design data required to produce photomasks for leading-edge chip designs is increasing at an exponential rate, which puts more pressure on mask writing systems to maintain reasonable write times for these advanced masks. At the same time, writing these masks requires higher exposure doses and shot counts, which can cause resist proximity heating effects that lead to mask CD errors,” stated Noriaki Nakayamada, group manager at NuFlare Technology. “D2S GPU acceleration technology significantly reduces the calculation time required to correct these resist heating effects. By employing a resist heating correction that includes the use of the D2S CDP as an OEM option on our mask writers, NuFlare estimates that it can reduce CD errors by more than 60 percent, and reduce write times by more than 20 percent.”

In the E-beam Initiative 2015 survey, the most advanced reported mask-set contained >100 masks of which ~20% could be considered ‘critical’. The just released 2016 survey disclosed that the most complex single-layer mask design written last year required 16 TB of data, however platforms like D2S’ CDP have been used to accelerate writing such that the average reported write times have decreased to a weighted average of 4 hours. Meanwhile, the longest reported mask write time decreased from 72 to 48 hours.

Linde Launches Asian R&D Center in Taiwan

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Timed in coordination with SEMICON Taiwan 2016 happening in early September, The Linde Group launched a new electronics R&D Center in Taichung, Taiwan. “We had a fabulous opening, with 35 to 40 customers and 20 people from the Taiwanese government such as ITRI,” said Carl Jackson (Fig. 1), Head of Electronics, Technology and Innovation at The Linde Group, in an exclusive interview with SemiMD. This new R&D center represents an investment of approximately EUR 5m to support local customers and development partners throughout the Asia Pacific region with its state-of-the-art analytical and product development laboratory.

FIG1: Carl Jackson, Head of Electronics, Technology and Innovation, LindeGroup. (Source: The Linde Group)

Linde has dozens of labs around the world supporting different industries, all of which work in coordination with three main centers termed ‘hubs’ located in New Jersey, Munich, and Shanghai. This new electronics lab in Taichung will support customers in China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and of course Taiwan. Working closely with local research partners and customers, the new center will also support development of local supply chains and local special gases manufacturing capabilities. “Customers do prefer a local supply-chain. There are examples in China where they’re even specifying a geographical limit around their fab, and if you’re outside that limit you can’t supply the materials,” said Jackson.

As a major step in collaborating with key regional partners in Taiwan, Linde is also entering into a collaboration agreement with the Industry Technology Research Institute (ITRI) of Taiwan. Jia-Ruey Duann, the vice president of ITRI, stated, “ ITRI values the cooperation on Electronic Specialty Gases (ESG) Production & Analysis with The Linde Group, and we look forward to working together to develop new products and services that benefit Taiwan’s electronics industry.”

Supporting Asia Pacific region

The R&D Center is part of an ongoing expansion and investment in the Asia Pacific region for Linde Electronics. Last year Linde commissioned the world’s largest on-site fluorine plant to supply SK Hynix, in addition to bringing multiple new electronics project on-stream in Asia. This year Linde announced that they have been awarded multiple gas and chemical supply wins for a number of world-leading photovoltaic cell manufacturers in Southeast Asia. “We’re talking about customer-specific applications in specific market segments,” explained Jackson. “They come to us with specific problems and the purpose of this lab is to find solutions.”

While this new lab supports manufacturing customers in LED, FPD, and PV industries, most of the demand for new materials comes from IC fabs. “Semiconductors always drive the materials focus, because it’s rare to find unique demands in the other markets,” said Jackson. “However, the scale can be much larger in the other segments, and that can drive improvements in gases used in semiconductor fabs. An example is ammonia which is used in huge volumes by LED fabs, and similarly when thin-film solar was happening there was huge demand for germane.”

Linde assists customers in realizing continuous technology progress through improvements in the ability to reduce chemical variability in existing products and in the development of new materials that are critical to support customers’ technology roadmaps. “We feel as thought we need to be better positioned to be able to support customers when they require it,” said Jackson. “Quite frankly, some materials don’t travel well. I’m not suggesting that suddenly we’ll start supplying everything locally, but this facility will help us start supplying customers throughout Asia.”

The Linde Electronics R&D Center (Fig. 2) will be used for improvement of product quality through advanced synthesis, purification, packaging and new applications development. These improvements are enabled by Linde’s advanced analytical processes and quality control systems that verify compositions and manage impurities.

FIG2: New electronics R&D center in Taichung, Taiwan will support customers throughout the Asia Pacific region. (Source: The Linde Group)

Analysis and Synthesis

“The way that we have it configured it has two distinct features that work together, but the main focus is on analysis and that’s where the main investment has been made,” explained Jackson. “We think that we probably have the most advanced lab in Asia and perhaps in the world. At least for the materials portfolio that we have we can do ‘finger-printing’ analysis, including all the trace-elements and all the metals, which is to say all the things that can potentially affect process.”

The second feature of this lab is the ability to create experimental quantities of completely new chemical and blends to meet the needs of customers working in advanced device R&D and in pilot-line production. The lab features new purification and new synthesis technologies that work on small quantities of materials. “One capability we have is to do binary- or mixed-component blends,” elaborated Jackson. “In terms of purification, we have a bench-scale set-up with absorbance and distillation, but generally that would be done somewhere else. That’s the advantage of being connected to the global network of labs.”

“There are unique requirements for every fab in every industry,” reminded Jackson. “For example, nitrous-oxide is a key critical-material for OLED manufacturing and you must maintain repeatability in every cylinder, in every truck, and down every pipe. How do you reduce the variability in the molecule regardless of the supply mode? Having the ability to do in-depth analysis certainly gives us a leg up.”

Since sustainability of the supply-chain is always essential, one trend is HVM fabs today is the consideration of recover methods for critical gases such as argon, helium, and neon. “In some cases it works, and particularly as the scale continues to grow. Being able to use the expertise from our Linde Engineering colleagues and scaling it to the right size for semiconductor manufacturing is really important for us.”

—E.K.

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