Creating value is the core of our business. We began as pioneers at the birth of the semiconductor industry, and since then we have helped shape the industry through a series of breakthrough innovations. Our challenge today is to create new opportunities for a fast-changing global society, by driving innovations at the atomic level. The chip-making process is in the age of the nanometer and we are now creating transistors that are a small number of nanometers across. But connecting billions of nanoscopic transistors on a single chip requires astonishing precision. As a leading supplier of ALD process solutions to the semiconductor industry, our ALD technology makes this possible.
GREATER PERFORMANCE, REDUCED ENERGY CONSUMPTION
Delivering excellence through advanced technologies like ALD and dependable, cost-effective products enables us to realize the technology roadmaps we co-create with our customers, leading to the development of electronic devices that deliver ever greater performance while reducing their energy consumption. Higher performance translates into more processing power, while lower energy requirements mean the production of smaller, more efficient devices. This enables our customers to further integrate smart technology into their products, helping everyone to understand more, create more and share more of what they love. The result is value creation not only for our customers, but for all of our stakeholders.
10 NANOMETER DEVICES
The continuous demand for smaller, faster and cheaper semiconductor components drives the technology advances in the semiconductor manufacturing process. As the transistors in an integrated circuit become smaller, the cost-per-component decreases. At the same time, the operating speed of the transistor increases. Thus, the minimum size of a single transistor in an integrated circuit is an extremely important parameter. Today, our customers manufacture semiconductor devices as small as 10 nanometers (one nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter), sometimes in a vertical 3D transistor or FinFET architecture. Our customers are qualifying and testing new critical processes to generate devices with line widths at or below 7nm. Simultaneously, in our customers’ laboratories and several collaborative research environments, advanced 5nm design rule devices and related materials are being developed.
In developing faster and smaller devices, our customers’ major technology requirements are:
- introduction of new thin film materials and device designs needed for continued scaling;
- reliable manufacturing of taller and narrower 3D structures in devices;
- lithography of ever smaller feature sizes, now much smaller than the wavelength of visible light; and
- new manufacturing processes that reduce device variability and increase yield.
DEVELOPING NEW MATERIALS
In order to meet our customers’ needs, we have developed – and are still developing – many new materials. ALD is an advanced technology that deposits atomic layers one at a time on wafers. This process is used to create ultra-thin films of exceptional quality and flatness. For example, in the FEOL, ALD of high-k dielectrics and novel metal gate electrodes can improve the performance and reduce the power consumption of a device, thereby enhancing battery life. This same class of materials can also lead to larger charge storage in a smaller capacitor, critical for memories and RF circuits. In addition to the development of the high-k dielectric, there is also a great deal of focus on new technologies and materials for the metal gate electrode, the gate sidewall passivation and many other applications. Plasma Enhanced ALD (PEALD) is an important technology for isolating features in 3D devices. We expect that the creation of 3D vertical transistors will further increase the demand for processes with better coverage of 3D structures, such as ALD.
Another example of new materials in the FEOL are our silicon-germanium (SiGe) and silicon-carbon-phosphorous (SiCP) epitaxial materials that can increase the switching speed of the transistors and the circuit in which they are embedded by so-called strain engineering. This can be done without negatively affecting the power these transistors consume.
LOW-K MATERIAL SUITE
In the BEOL or interconnect process, a continued demand to improve the speed at which signals travel through thin copper wires has led to the development of a full suite of low-k materials. These low-k materials can decrease the amount of delay in signal propagation, resulting in, for example, faster microprocessors. Simultaneously, these low-k materials can reduce the amount of power loss in the interconnections. We have been one of the leaders in successfully introducing these low-k materials in the market. We are continuing to develop improvements to this low-k technology to enable faster interconnect circuits.
We have also developed and sold new ALD processes and wafer processing equipment to enable the creation of narrow lines that have dimensions beyond the resolution of common lithography, and with low line width variability, using a process called spacer-defined double patterning. For that purpose we have developed low temperature Plasma Enhanced ALD processes that are compatible with and assist the common lithography process.
In addition to addressing the technology needs of our customers, the relentless drive of the industry to reduce cost corresponds to significant spending on development programs that further increase throughput, equipment reliability, and yield in our customer’s line, and further lower the cost per wafer of the wafer processing systems. In order to enable further efficiencies in our manufacturing process, we have improved, and will continue to improve, the level of standardization in our equipment portfolio by migrating to common platforms, sub-assemblies and components. This requires a significant engineering effort, although it can result in efficiencies in the long term.
ALD AT ASMI
ALD is one of the newest technologies to deposit ultra-thin films of exceptional flatness and uniformity. This technology was brought into ASMI in 1999 with the acquisition of ASM Microchemistry, who first developed the thermal ALD technology. Plasma Enhanced ALD, PEALD, is an extension of this original ALD technology that uses plasma, which was brought into ASMI in 2001 through a partnership with Genitech and a subsequent acquisition in 2004 and formation of ASM Genitech Korea. The use of plasma enables us to deposit high-quality films at very low temperatures. ALD is a very versatile technology that can be used to deposit high-k insulating materials, conductors, silicon oxide and silicon nitride. We expect that the trends of continued scaling, and evolution towards 3D device structures play into the strength of our ALD position. We offer ALD/PEALD processes on several of our product platforms, including single wafer and batch systems, and for multiple wafer sizes.
OUR BUSINESS MODEL
At ASMI we have developed a business model that enables us to create value for the company and all of our stakeholders. We achieve this by working with our customers to develop innovative solutions, while constantly looking at what is best for our investors, our people, society, and other stakeholders.