Part of the  

Solid State Technology

  and   

The Confab

  Network

About  |  Contact

Posts Tagged ‘TSMC’

Next Page »

Mentor Graphics Enhances Support for TSMC 7nm Design Starts and 10nm Production

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Mentor Graphics Corporation (NASDAQ: MENT) today announced further enhancements and optimizations to the Calibre® platform and Analog FastSPICE™ (AFS) platform by completing TSMC 10nm FinFET V1.0 certification. In addition, the Calibre and Analog FastSPICE platforms are ready for early design starts and IP design on TSMC’s 7nm FinFET process based on the most current Design Rule Manual (DRM) and SPICE model.

To help mutual customers prepare their designs for advanced manufacturing processes, Mentor has made improvements for 10nm physical verification, accelerating the runtime of the Calibre nmDRC™ sign-off tool compared to the tool’s runtime when it was initially certified for required 10nm accuracy last year. New device parameters of the 10nm process are supported in the Calibre nmLVS™ tool for more accurate SPICE models and self-heating simulation. Mentor has also enhanced the parasitic accuracy in the Calibre xACT™ solution, and is actively improving layout parasitic extraction flow to meet 10nm requirements.

The Calibre platform also helps designers improve design reliability and manufacturability. The TSMC reliability offering leverages the Calibre PERC™ reliability verification solution, now with enhanced techniques for 10nm resistance and current density checking. For design for manufacturing (DFM), Mentor added color-aware fill and more sophisticated alignment and spacing rules to the SmartFill feature of the Calibre YieldEnhancer tool. Mentor also optimized the Calibre DesignREV™ chip finishing tool, the Calibre RVE™ results viewer, and the Calibre RealTime interface to give designers easier integration and debugging capabilities for multi-patterning, layout vs. schematic (LVS) comparison, and electrical rule checking (ERC) and reliability verification.

Mentor and TSMC are now collaborating on bringing the Calibre platform’s broad capabilities to the 7nm FinFET process. The Calibre nmDRC and Calibre nmLVS tools are already certified for customers’ early design starts. TSMC and Mentor are expanding use of the SmartFill functionality and Calibre multi-patterning capabilities to support the technology requirements of 7nm.

For fast, accurate circuit simulation, TSMC certified the AFS platform, including the AFS Mega circuit simulator, for 10nm V1.0. The AFS platform is also certified for the latest version of the 7nm DRM and SPICE for early design starts.

The Mentor place-and-route platform—including the Olympus-SoC™ system—has been enhanced to support advanced design rules at 10nm, and Mentor is optimizing its correlation with sign-off extraction and static timing analysis tools. This collaboration has also been extended to 7nm.

“We continue to collaborate with Mentor Graphics to provide design solutions and services that will help our mutual customers become successful with their 7nm designs,” said Suk Lee, TSMC senior director, Design Infrastructure Marketing Division. “Working together, we are also enabling the full production release of our 10nm technology design support.”

“To get the world’s most advanced processes into the hands of today’s leading SoC designers requires intense collaboration between the foundry and the EDA supplier,” said Joe Sawicki, vice president and general manager of Mentor Graphics Design-to-Silicon Division. “We’re honored that TSMC continues to leverage the proven quality, performance and breadth of Mentor platforms in its ecosystem strategy for the future.”

TSMC Readies 7nm Chip Ecosystem, Infrastructure for 2017

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

thumbnail

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company came to Silicon Valley on Tuesday for a day of presentations on its latest chip technology. The TSMC Technology Symposium for North America drew more than 1,000 attendees at the San Jose Convention Center.

The world’s largest silicon foundry led off the day with a pair of announcements: ARM Holdings and TSMC said they would collaborate on 7-nanometer FinFET process technology for ultra-low-power high-performance computing (HPC) system-on-a-chip devices, building on their previous experience with 16nm and 10nm FinFET process technology, while MediaTek and TSMC extended their partnership to develop Internet of Things and wearable electronics products, using the IC design house’s MT2523 chipset for fitness smartwatches, introduced in January and fabricated with TSMC’s 55nm ULP process.

TSMC’s work with ARM on the 16nm and 10nm nodes employed ARM’s Artisan foundation physical intellectual property, as will their 7nm efforts.

On Tuesday afternoon, the hundreds of attendees heard first from BJ Woo, TSMC’s vice president of business development, on the company’s advanced technology, including its moves toward supporting radio-frequency IC (RFIC) designs for smartphone chips and other areas of wireless communications.

“Cellular RF and WLAN are RF technology drivers,” she said. Looking toward 4G LTE Carrier Aggregation, TSMC began offering its 28HPC RF process to customers in late 2015 and will roll out the 28HPC+ RF process in the second quarter of this year, Woo added.

TSMC has won 75 percent of the business for RFIC applications, she asserted.

The foundry will start making 10nm FinFET chips for flagship smartphones and “phablets” this year, with 7nm FinFET devices for those products in 2017, according to Woo.

The business development executive also touted the company’s “mature 28-nanometer processes,” the 28HPC and 28HPC+, saying they are “rising in both volume and customer tape-outs.”

TSMC has been shipping automotive chips meeting industry standards since 2014, Woo noted, primarily for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and infotainment electronics. The foundry is now working on vehicle control technology, employing microcontrollers.

The company’s 16FF+ process has been used in 50 customer tape-outs, Woo said. “Many have achieved first-silicon success,” she added. TSMC is putting its 16FFC process into volume production during this quarter.

“Automotive will be the [semiconductor] industry focus,” Woo predicted.

She also spoke about the company’s MD2 local interconnect technology, its 1D back-end-of-line process, and its spacer BEOL process.

Regarding 7nm chips, Woo said the company will offer two “tracks” of such chips, for high-performance computing and mobile applications. “Both will be available at the same time,” she said.

Most of the semiconductor production equipment being used for fabrication of 10nm chip will also be used for 7nm manufacturing, according to Woo. Those 7nm chips will be 10 to 15 percent faster than 10nm chips, while reducing power consumption by 35 to 40 percent, she said.

Risk production of 7nm chips will begin one year from now, in March of 2017, she said.

Suk Lee, senior director of TSMC’s Design Infrastructure Marketing Division, reported on development of electronic design automation (EDA) products for the 16nm node and beyond.

“Low-power solutions are ready,” he said of the foundry’s 16FFC process. IP is available to use with 16FFC for automotive, IoT, HPC, and mobile computing applications, he noted.

Lee reviewed what the company’s EDA partners – Mentor Graphics, Synopsys, Cadence Design Systems, ANSYS, and ATopTech – have available for 10nm chip design and verification.

Design and manufacturing of 7nm chips will involve cut-metal handling and multiple patterning, according to Lee. “We’ve used this technology on 16 nanometer and previous generations,” he said of cut-metal handling.

TSMC will support multiple SPICE simulators, having developed hybrid-format netlist support, Lee said. Pre-silicon design kits for 7nm chips will be available in the third quarter of 2016, he added.

The TSMC9000 Program for automotive/IoT products will be “up and running” in Q3 of this year, providing “automotive-grade qualification requirements in planning,” he said.

Lee also spoke about the foundry’s offerings in 3D chips, featuring “full integration of packaging and IC design” with TSMC’s InFO technology. The HBM2 CoWoS design kit will be out in the second quarter of 2016, he said. “We’re very excited about that,” Lee added.

George Liu, senior director of TSMC’s Sensor & Display Business Development, said, “The Internet of Things will drive the next semiconductor growth.” When it comes to the IoT and the Internet of Everything, “forecasts are all over the map,” he noted.

Taking diversification as his theme, Liu said TSMC’s specialty technology will help bridge the connection between the natural world and the computing cloud. First there is the “signal chain” of analog chips and sensors, leading to the “data chain” of connectivity, he said.

Liu reviewed a wide variety of relevant technologies, such as CMOS image sensors, microelectromechanical system (MEMS devices, embedded flash memories, biometrics, touch and display technology, and power management ICs.

At the all-day conference, which included an ecosystem exhibition by partner companies, TSMC emphasized its readiness to take on 28nm, 16nm, 10nm, and 7nm chip designs, along with the more mature process technologies. It’s game on for the foundry business.

Mentor Graphics Adds Support for Integrated Fan-Out (InFO) Packaging Technology at TSMC

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Mentor Graphics Corporation (NASDAQ: MENT) today announced a design, layout, and verification solution to support design applications for TSMC’s Integrated Fan-Out (InFO) wafer-level packaging technology. The solution comprises the Calibre® nmDRC physical verification product, the Calibre RVE™ results viewing platform, and the Xpedition® Package Integrator flow. It enables mutual customers to deploy the unique fan-out layer structures and interconnects in the TSMC InFO technology, targeting cost-sensitive applications such as mobile and consumer products.

The interplay between today’s advanced system-on-chip (SoC) technologies and packaging requirements is driving the need for co-validation between integrated circuit (IC) and package design environments. The Xpedition Package Integrator flow will be Mentor’s platform to support TSMC’s unique TSMC InFO design requirements, including integration with other Mentor solutions—the first being Calibre nmDRC and Calibre RVE.

The Mentor® solution allows IC and package designers to view and cross-probe results from the Calibre nmDRC tool directly inside the Xpedition Package Integrator flow for verification of TSMC InFO interconnect structures. Because this flow is based on proven integration via the Calibre RVE tool, it results in automated sign-off verification and easier correction of any issues highlighted by the Calibre nmDRC product. It also streamlines the addition of future features and capabilities.

IC designers have widely adopted the Calibre nmDRC tool as their sign-off solution for multiple process node generations. Through the integration with Xpedition Package Integrator, they now share a common view with package developers when performing co-verification.

“We are focused on making our solutions easier for customers to adopt by providing a design methodology that leverages proven EDA design tools,” said Suk Lee, TSMC senior director, Design Infrastructure Marketing Division. “Mentor and TSMC have established this InFO methodology through an integration of the Calibre and Xpedition platforms, and will continue to collaborate on enhancing that solution.”

“Integrating Calibre nmDRC technology with the Xpedition Package Integrator flow is a solid first step in Mentor’s support of TSMC’s InFO technology,” stated Joe Sawicki, vice president and general manager of Mentor Graphics Design to Silicon Division. “We continue to work with TSMC and its ecosystem to expand beyond this initial step by establishing a roadmap for additional capabilities to further accelerate time-to-market for users of TSMC’s InFO offering.”

EUV Resists and Stochastic Processes

Friday, March 4th, 2016

thumbnail

By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

In an exclusive interview with Solid State Technology during SPIE-AL this year, imec Advanced Patterning Department Director Greg McIntyre said, “The big encouraging thing at the conference is the progress on EUV.” The event included a plenary presentation by TSMC Nanopatterning Technology Infrastructure Division Director and SPIE Fellow Anthony Yen on “EUV Lithography: From the Very Beginning to the Eve of Manufacturing.” TSMC is currently learning about EUVL using 10nm- and 7nm-node device test structures, with plans to deploy it for high volume manufacturing (HVM) of contact holes at the 5nm node. Intel researchers confirm that they plan to use EUVL in HVM for the 7nm node.

Recent improvements in EUV source technology— 80W source power had been shown by the end of 2014, 185W by the end of 2015, and 200W has now been shown by ASML—have been enabled by multiple laser pulses tuned to the best produce plasma from tin droplets. TSMC reports that 518 wafers per day were processed by their ASML EUV stepper, and the tool was available ~70% of the time. TSMC shows that a single EUVL process can create 46nm pitch lines/spaces using a complex 2D mask, as is needed for patterning the metal2 layer within multilevel on-chip interconnects.

To improve throughput in HVM, the resist sensitivity to the 13.54nm wavelength radiation of EUV needs to be improved, while the line-width roughness (LWR) specification must be held to low single-digit nm. With a 250W source and 25 mJ/cm2 resist sensitivity an EUV stepper should be able to process ~100 wafer-per-hour (wph), which should allow for affordable use when matched with other lithography technologies.

Researchers from Inpria—the company working on metal-oxide-based EUVL resists—looked at the absorption efficiencies of different resists, and found that the absorption of the metal oxide based resists was ≈ 4 to 5 times higher than that of the Chemically-Amplified Resist (CAR). The Figure shows that higher absorption allows for the use of proportionally thinner resist, which mitigates the issue of line collapse. Resist as thin as 18nm has been patterned over a 70nm thin Spin-On Carbon (SOC) layer without the need for another Bottom Anti-Reflective Coating (BARC). Inpria today can supply 26 mJ/cm2 resist that creates 4.6nm LWR over 140nm Depth of Focus (DoF).

To prevent pattern collapse, the thickness of resist is reduced proportionally to the minimum half-pitch (HP) of lines/spaces. (Source: JSR Micro)

JEIDEC researchers presented their summary of the trade-off between sensitivity and LWR for metal-oxide-based EUV resists:  ultra high sensitivity of 7 mJ/cm2 to pattern 17nm lines with 5.6nm LWR, or low sensitivity of 33 mJ/cm2 to pattern 23nm lines with 3.8nm LWR.

In a keynote presentation, Seong-Sue Kim of Samsung Electronics stated that, “Resist pattern defectivity remains the biggest issue. Metal-oxide resist development needs to be expedited.” The challenge is that defectivity at the nanometer-scale derives from “stochastics,” which means random processes that are not fully predictable.

Stochastics of Nanopatterning

Anna Lio, from Intel’s Portland Technology Development group, stated that the challenges of controlling resist stochastics, “could be the deal breaker.” Intel ran a 7-month test of vias made using EUVL, and found that via critical dimensions (CD), edge-placement-error (EPE), and chain resistances all showed good results compared to 193i. However, there are inherent control issues due to the random nature of phenomena involved in resist patterning:  incident “photons”, absorption, freed electrons, acid generation, acid quenching, protection groups, development processes, etc.

Stochastics for novel chemistries can only be controlled by understanding in detail the sources of variability. From first-principles, EUV resist reactions are not photon-chemistry, but are really radiation-chemistry with many different radiation paths and electrons which can be generated. If every via in an advanced logic IC must work then the failure rate must be on the order of 1 part-per-trillion (ppt), and stochastic variability from non-homogeneous chemistries must be eliminated.

Consider that for a CAR designed for 15mJ/cm2 sensitivity, there will be just:

145 photons/nm2 for 193, and

10 photons/nm2 for EUV.

To improve sensitivity and suppress failures from photon shot-noise, we need to increase resist absorption, and also re-consider chemical amplification mechanisms. “The requirements will be the same for any resist and any chemistry,” reminded Lio. “We need to evaluate all resists at the same exposure levels and at the same rules, and look at different features to show stochastics like in the tails of distributions. Resolution is important but stochastics will rule our world at the dimensions we’re dealing with.”

—E.K.

What’s the Next-Gen Litho Tech? Maybe All of Them

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The annual SPIE Advanced Lithography symposium in San Jose, Calif., hasn’t offered a clear winner in the next-generation lithography race. It’s becoming clearer, however, that 193i immersion and extreme-ultraviolet lithography will co-exist in the future, while directed self-assembly, nanoimprint lithography, and maybe even electron-beam direct-write technology will fit into the picture, too.

At the same time, plasma deposition and etching processes are assuming a greater interdependence with 193i, especially when it comes to multiple patterning, such as self-aligned double patterning, self-aligned quadruple patterning, and self-aligned octuple patterning (yes, there is such a thing!).

“We’ve got to go down to the sub-nanometer level,” Richard Gottscho, Lam Research’s executive vice president of global products, said Monday morning in his plenary presentation at the conference. “We must reduce the variability in multiple patterning,” he added.

Gottscho touted the benefits of atomic level processing in continuing to shrink IC dimensions. Atomic level deposition has been in volume production for a decade or more, he noted, and atomic level etching is emerging as an increasingly useful technology.

When it comes to EUV, “it’s a matter of when, not if,” the Lam executive commented. “EUV will be complementary with 193i.”

Anthony Yen, director of nanopatterning technology in the Infrastructure Division of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, followed Gottscho in the plenary session. “The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she’s on the stage,” he said of EUV.

Harry Levinson, senior director of GlobalFoundries, gave the opening plenary presentation, with the topic of “Evolution in the Concentration of Activities in Lithography.” He was asked after his presentation, “When is the end?” Levinson replied, “We’re definitely not going to get sub-atomic.”

With that limit in mind, dozens of papers were presented this week on what may happen before the semiconductor industry hits the sub-atomic wall.

There were seven conferences within the symposium, on specific subjects, along with a day of classes, an interactive poster session, and a two-day exhibition.

The Alternative Lithographic Technologies conference was heavy on directed self-assembly and nanoimprint lithography papers, while also offering glimpses at patterning with tilted ion implantation and multiphoton laser ablation lithography.

“Patterning is the battleground,” said David Fried, Coventor’s chief technology officer, semiconductor, in an interview at the SPIE conference. He described directed self-assembly as “an enabler for optical lithography.”

Mattan Kamon of Coventor presented a paper on Wednesday afternoon on “Virtual fabrication using directed self-assembly for process optimization in a 14nm DRAM node.”

DSA could be used in conjunction with SAQP or LELELELE, according to Fried. While some lithography experts remain leery or skeptical about using DSA in high-volume manufacturing, the Coventor CTO is a proponent of the technology’s potential.

“Unit process models in DSA are not far-fetched,” he said. “I think they’re pretty close.  The challenges of EUV are well understood. DSA challenges are a little less clear. There’s no ‘one solution fits all’ with DSA.” Fried added, “There are places where DSA can still win.”

Franklin Kalk, executive vice president of technology for Toppan Photomasks, is open to the idea of DSA and imprint lithography joining EUV and immersion in the lithography mix. “It will be some combination,” he said in an interview, while adding, “It’s a dog’s breakfast of technologies. Don’t ever count anything out.”

Richard Wise, Lam’s technical managing director in the company’s Patterning, Global Products Groups CTO Office, said EUV, when ready, will likely be complementary with multipatterning for 7 nanometer.

Self-aligning quadruple patterning, for example, was once considered “insanity” in the industry, yet it is a proven production technology now, he said.

While EUV technology is “very focused on one company,” ASML Holding, there is a consensus at SPIE that EUV’s moment is at hand, Wise said. Intel’s endorsement of the technology and dedication to advancing it speaks volumes of EUV’s potential, he asserted.

“Lam’s always excelled in lot-to-lot control,” an area of significant concern, Wise said, especially with all of this week’s talk about process variability.

What will be the final verdict on the future of lithography technology? Stay tuned.

Optimism Reigns at SPIE Lithography Conference, Despite Challenges

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

thumbnail

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Semiconductor manufacturing and design is growing increasingly complicated and just plain hard. Everyone knows that. The bad news is it’s only going to get worse.

Relax, there are many smart people gathered in San Jose, Calif., this week for the SPIE Advanced Lithography Symposium to discuss the challenges and figure out how to surmount them.

The changes required in lithography and related technologies to continue IC scaling promise to be painful and costly. Mitigating the pain and the cost is a common theme at the SPIE conference.

The annual SPIE Advanced Lithography conference is often dominated by discussions on the state of extreme-ultraviolet lithography (EUVL). In presentations on Sunday and Monday, the theme was generally the same as 2015 – EUV is making progress, yet it’s still not ready for high-volume semiconductor manufacturing.

Intel Fellow Mark Phillips said the technology has seen “two years of solid progress,” speaking Sunday at Nikon’s LithoVision 2016 event. He added, “There’s no change in Intel’s position: We’ll use EUV only when it’s ready.”

Anthony Yen of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing covered the 30-year history of EUV development in his Monday morning presentation at the SPIE conference. Asked during the question-and-answer session following the presentation on when the world’s largest silicon foundry will use EUV, Yen stuck to the official company line of implementing EUV in production for the 7-nanometer process node, after some involvement at 10nm.

Seong-Sam Kim of Samsung Electronics also sees EUV realizing its long-aborning potential at 7nm, a node at which “argon fluoride multipatterning will hit the wall.” He touted the 80-watt power source Samsung has achieved with its NXE-3300 scanner from ASML Holding, saying it had maintained that level over more than eight months.

Intel’s Britt Turkot reported 200W source power “has been achieved recently,” and said the tin droplet generator in its ASML scanner has been significantly improved, increasing its typical lifetime by three times. EUV has demonstrated “solid progress,” she said, including ASML’s development of a membrane pellicle for EUV reticles.

While work with the ASML scanner on Intel’s 14nm pilot fab line has been “encouraging,” Turkot said, she added, “We do need to keep the momentum going.” Intel sees EUV entering into volume production with 7nm chips, according to Turkot. “It will be used when it’s ready,” she said.

EUV technology has shown “good progress” in productivity, while its availability and cost considerations have “a long way to go,” Turkot concluded, adding, “We need an actinic solution for the long term.”

An industry consensus has emerged that EUV will be used with ArF 193i immersion lithography in the near future, and this trend is likely to continue for some time, according to executives at the SPIE conference. There may also be wider adoption of directed self-assembly (DSA) and nanoimprint lithography technology, among other alternative lithography technologies.

Mark Phillips of Intel pointed to complementary implementation of EUV and 193i. “We must use EUV carefully,” he said. “We need to replace three-plus 193i masks.” Phillips added, “EUV can’t be applied everywhere affordably. 193i will continue to be used whenever possible.”

Nikon executives touted the capabilities of their new NSR-S631E ArF immersion scanner, introduced just before the SPIE conference. The new scanner can turn out 250 wafers per hour, and can be pushed to 270 wph with certain options, according to Nikon’s Ryoichi Kawaguchi.

Yuichi Shibazaki of Nikon said the company will next year introduce the S63xE scanner, improving on S631E.

For all the challenges of transitioning to 7nm and beyond, executives at SPIE remain optimistic about solving the issues of 193i multipatterning, DSA, and EUV. Harry Levinson of GlobalFoundries said in response to a question, “The ultimate resource is the human mind.”

Packaging Conference Addresses Challenges, Opportunities in New Technologies

Friday, December 18th, 2015

thumbnail

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

On the second day of the 12th annual 3D ASIP conference, the heavy hitters came out to talk. Attendees heard presentations from executives of Amkor Technology, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Northrop Grumman, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, and Xilinx, among other companies.

The day began with Pioneer Awards presented to Mitsumasa Koyanagi of Tohoku University and Peter Ramm of Fraunhofer EMFT. Those two men then gave talks on their involvement in 3D packaging technology over the decades.

“It started with DRAM in 1974,” Koyanagi recalled.

Ramm reviewed various European initiatives in the field, including the development of InterChip Vias (ICVs), a precursor to through-silicon via (TSV) technology, and the concept of known good die.

Suresh Ramalingam of Xilinx discussed the attributes of Silicon-less Interconnect Technology (SLIT), which the chip company developed in cooperation with Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL), the IC assembly, bumping, and testing contractor.

“It’s still a silicon platform,” he pointed out. SLIT promises to connect multiple die in a package without resorting to TSVs. “Wafer warpage is a big issue,” Ramalingam noted.

Amkor’s Mike Kelly followed Ramalingam. “There’s a kind of upturn or resurgence in 2.5D, driven by high-bandwidth memory,” he said.

Amkor is offering the Silicon-less Interposer Module (SLIM) as its TSV alternative technology, according to Kelly, while also providing Silicon Wafer Integrated Fan-out Technology (SWIFT) as another packaging alternative to TSV-based interconnections.

KC Yee of TSMC, filling in for an absent presenter, spoke at length about the foundry’s Integrated Fan-Out (InFO) wafer-level packaging technology. “InFO eliminates silicon, TSVs, interposers,” he said. At the same time, InFO “reduces cost,” he asserted.

DARPA’s Daniel Green spoke about the agency’s Diverse Accessible Heterogeneous Integration (DAHI) program, which succeeded its Compound Semiconductor Materials on Silicon (COSMOS) program.

He was followed by Augusto Gutierrez-Aitken of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “DAHI is not in competition with CMOS,” he said. NGAS is developing a foundry for heterogeneous integration projects, inviting in companies and universities to participate in the research and development.

Teledyne Scientific’s Miguel Urteaga spoke about his company’s CS-STACK 3D stacking chip program. “We’re looking to get the highest III-V performance we can,” he said.

China Bolsters its IC Gear Business with Mattson Acquisition

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Mattson Technology agreed this month to be acquired by Beijing E-Town Dragon Semiconductor Industry Investment Center, a limited partnership in China, for about $300 million in cash. The deal marks one of the first signs that the “Made in China 2025” policy will include targeting semiconductor production equipment as an element in bolstering the domestic chip business in the People’s Republic of China.

Brad Mattson, CEO

Mattson supplies dry strip, etch, millisecond anneal, and rapid thermal processing equipment for semiconductor manufacturing. The company was founded in 1988 by Brad Mattson, who earlier established Novellus Systems, acquired by Lam Research in 2012.

Mattson served as the company’s chief executive officer until 2001, and was its vice chairman until 2002. He later became a partner at VantagePoint Capital Partners and now serves as the CEO of Siva Power, a solar startup originally known as Solexant.

In 2014, Mattson Technology posted net income of $9.88 million on revenue of $178.4 million, after being unprofitable for the previous four years. Samsung Electronics accounted for about 61 percent of net revenue last year; Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing were its leading customers in 2013.

China represented nearly 10 percent of Mattson’s revenue in 2014, a percentage that may rise once the acquisition transaction is completed in early 2016, pending shareholder and regulatory approval.

Mattson Technology has remained profitable this year, reporting net income of more than $2 million on revenue of $38.9 million for the third quarter ending September 27, compared with net income of $2.6 million on revenue of $43.3 million for the same quarter of 2014.

For the first nine months of 2015, the company posted net income of $10.9 million on revenue of $140.5 million, compared with net income of $4.9 million on revenue of $123.7 million in the like period of 2014.

In the dry strip market, Mattson competes with Lam Research and PSK. Its principal competitors in thermal annealing are Applied Materials, Dainippon Screen Manufacturing, and Ultratech. Etch rivals are Applied, Lam, and Tokyo Electron, according to Mattson’s 10-K annual report for 2014.

G. Dan Hutcheson, VLSI Research Inc.

“The Chinese are trying to develop their own semiconductor equipment business,” said G. Dan Hutcheson, chairman and CEO of VLSIresearch. Buying a company like Mattson is “a great way to start,” he added.

Recalling the 1980s, Hutcheson commented, “Mattson was one of the really go-go companies at the time.” There were 10 to 20 vendors in every segment, he recalled. With industry consolidation of equipment suppliers, “it’s become harder for companies like that,” he said. “You almost have to be a billion-dollar company” to stand out in the market these days, Hutcheson added.

Fusen Chen, Mattson’s president and CEO, “has been a shot in the arm, turning it around,” Hutcheson said about the company. “It’s hard to have differentiation from Applied and Lam.”

Noting the dominance of Samsung and TSMC among Mattson’s customer base, Hutcheson said, “There’s only three customers” – those two chipmakers and Intel. “Those guys can develop their own technology,” he added.

Having Mattson as an equipment supplier helps “keep the competition honest,” Hutcheson noted.

The veteran industry observer said such a deal is “good for the Chinese.” The country aspires to become a world leader in computers, networks and telecommunications, without having to import most of the semiconductors it needs. “You can’t do that without semiconductors,” Hutcheson added.

The fabless semiconductor business in China has grown tremendously in this decade. “No one’s graduating designers like China is,” Hutcheson said. “They get their PhDs in the U.S., their visas expire, and we tell them, ‘go back home.’”

China is following the example of South Korea and Taiwan in building up an electronics industry with a comprehensive supply chain, although not all Asian countries have done well in fostering semiconductor equipment vendors, according to Hutcheson.

“It’s a real classical error” to assume that semiconductor production equipment is merely hardware that is easy to design and manufacture, Hutcheson commented. “It’s not just stuff made in a machine shop,” he added, noting the need for extensive software in IC gear.

At its size, “Mattson is one of the last companies you can buy,” Hutcheson concluded.

Measuring 5nm Particles In-Line

Monday, November 30th, 2015

By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) (https://www.itri.org.tw/) worked with TSMC (http://www.tsmc.com) in Taiwan on a clever in-line monitor technology that transforms liquids and automatically-diluted-slurries into aerosols for subsequent airborn measurements. They call this “SuperSizer” technology, and claim that tests have shown resolution over the astounding range of 5nm to 1 micron, and with ability to accurately represent size distributions over that range. Any dissolved gas bubbles in the liquid are lost in the aerosol process, which allows the tool to unambiguously count solid impurities. The Figure shows the compact components within the tool that produce the aerosol.

Aerosol sub-system inside “SuperSizer” in-line particle sizing tool co-developed by ITRI/TSMC. (Source: ITRI)

Semiconductor fabrication (fab) lines require in-line measurement and control of particles in critical liquids and slurries. With the exception of those carefully added to chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) slurries, most particles in fabs are accidental yield-killers that must be kept to an absolute minimum to ensure proper yield in IC fabs, and ever decreasing IC device feature sizes result in ever smaller particles that can kill a chip. Standard in-line tools to monitor particles rely on laser scattering through the liquid, and such technology allows for resolution of particle sizes as small as 40nm. Since we cannot control what we cannot measure, the IC fab industry needs this new ability to measure particles as small as 5nm for next-generation manufacturing.

There are two actual measurement technologies used downstream of the SuperSizer aerosol module:  a differential mobility analyzer (DMA), and a condensation particle counter (CPC). The aerosol first moves through the DMA column, where particle sizes are measured based on the force balance between air flow speed in the axial direction and an electric field in the radial direction. The subsequent CPC then provides particle concentration data.

Combining both data streams properly allows for automated output of information on particle sizes down to 5nm, size distributions, and impurity concentrations in liquids. Since the tool is intended for monitoring semiconductor high-volume manufacturing (HVM), the measurement data is automatically categorized, analyzed, and reported according to the needs of the fab’s automated yield management system. Users can edit the measurement sequences or recipes to monitor different chemicals or slurries under different conditions and schedules.

When used to control a CMP process, the SuperSizer can be configured to measure not just impurities but also the essential slurry particles themselves. During dilution and homogeneous mixing of the slurry prior to aerosolization, mechanical agitation needs to be avoided so as to prevent particle agglomeration which causes scratch defects. This new tool uses pressured gas as the driving force for solution transporting and mixing, so that any measured agglomeration in the slurry can be assigned to a source somewhere else in the fab.

TSMC has been using this tool since 2014 to measure particles in solutions including slurries, chemicals, and ultra-pure water. ITRI, which owns the technology and related patents, can now take orders to manufacture the product, but the research organization plans to license the technology to a company in Taiwan for volume manufacturing. EETimes reports (http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1328283) that the current list price for a tool capable of monitoring ultra-pure water is ~US$450k, while a fully-configured tool for CMP monitoring would cost over US$700k.

—E.K.

InvenSense Developers Conference Tackles Sensor Security, New Technologies

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The second day of the InvenSense Developers Conference saw presenters get down to cases – use cases for sensors.

There were track sessions devoted to mobile technology and the Internet of Things, with the latter featuring presentations on industrial and automotive applications, smart homes and drones, smartphones and tablet computers, and wearable electronics. InvenSense partner companies had their own track on New Technologies, fitting into the conference’s “Internet of Sensors” theme.

The conference also featured two developer tracks in parallel, providing five InvenSense presentations on its FireFly hardware and software, SensorStudio, and other offerings.

One of the presentations that wrapped up the conference on Wednesday afternoon (November 18) was given by Pim Tuyls, chief executive officer of Intrinsic-ID, the Dutch company that worked with InvenSense to develop the TrustedSensor product, a secure sensor-based authentication system incorporating the FireFly system-on-a-chip device.

TrustedSensor will be shipped to alpha customers in the first quarter of 2016 and will go out to beta customers in the second quarter of next year, according to Tuyls. “This is real,” he said.

The Intrinsic-ID founder briefly reviewed the company’s history, to start. It was spun out of Royal Philips in 2008 and is an independent company with venture-capital funding, Tuyls noted.

Intrinsic-ID was founded to provide “cyber physical security based on physically unclonable function,” or PUF, Tuyls said. “We invented PUF,” he added. “It has been vetted by security labs and government agencies,” among other parties.

Taking “The Trusted Sensor” as his theme, the Intrinsic-ID CEO said, “Sensors are the first line of defense. You want to make sure you can provide a certain level of security.”

It is critical to achieve “the right balance” in designing, fabricating, and installing sensors, with security, flexibility, and low footprint among the key considerations, according to Tuyls.

While whimsically describing PUF as “a magic concept,” Tuyls noted, “Chips are physically unique,” with no two completely alike due to manufacturing processes.

PUF can “extract a crypto key from any device,” he added. “You can authenticate any device.”

Intrinsic-ID has tested the PUF technology with a wide variety of silicon foundries, Tuyls said – namely, Cypress Semiconductor, GlobalFoundries, IBM, Intel, Renesas Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, and United Microelectronics. It has been implemented by Altera, Microsemi, NXP Semiconductors, Samsung, and Synopsys, he added, and process nodes ranging from 180 nanometers down to 14nm have been tested.

Tuyls concluded by emphasizing the importance of sensor security for the Internet of Things. “We should not wait; we should not try to save a few cents,” he said. “It is important, but it is hard.”

Earlier in the day, attendees heard from Sam Massih, InvenSense’s director of wearable sensors. “There’s a wearable solution for every part of the body,” he commented.

“Step count isn’t enough,” Massih said. “You need context for data.” He cited the example of a user who goes to the gym three times a week and spends an hour on the elliptical trainer machine for one hour on each visit.

“That’s data that can be monetized,” he said.

InvenSense announced last month that it would enter the market for automotive sensors. Amir Panush, the company’s head of automotive and IoT industrial, said in his presentation, “Sensors need to be smart enough.”

The megatrends in automotive electronics include the use of motion sensors for safety in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), the smart connected car, and tough emission restrictions, according to Panush.

“We have signed a deal with a Tier One partner,” Panush said, meaning a leading automotive manufacturer, without identifying the company. “We are ramping up internal R&D in automotive.” InvenSense is presently opening design centers focusing on the $5 trillion automotive market, he added.

InvenSense was founded in 2003 and went public in 2011. The company posted revenue of $372 million in fiscal 2015 with a net loss of $1.08 million (primarily due to charging $10.55 million in interest expense against net income), after being profitable for the previous four years. InvenSense gets more than three-quarters of its revenue from mobile sensors and has a growing business in IoT sensors.

Customers in Asia accounted for 63 percent of the company’s fiscal 2015 revenue, according to InvenSense’s 10-K annual report. The company spent $90.6 million on research and development, representing about 24 percent of its net revenue.

GlobalFoundries and TSMC make nearly all of InvenSense’s wafers. Assembly packaging of its microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices and sensors is outsourced to Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, Amkor Technology, Lingsen Precision Industries, and Siliconware Precision Industries.

The company had 644 employees as of March 29, 2015, with nearly half of them involved in R&D.

STMicroelectronics is InvenSense’s primary competitor for consumer motion sensors, the 10-K states, while the company also competes with Analog Devices, Epson Toyocom, Kionix, Knowles, Maxim Integrated Products, MEMSIC, Murata Manufacturing, Panasonic, Robert Bosch, and Sony.

Next Page »