The semiconductor capital equipment market is composed of three major market segments: wafer processing equipment, assembly and packaging equipment, and test equipment. We operate in the semiconductor wafer processing equipment market, primarily for deposition equipment.
In 2017, the semiconductor industry was driven by a US$2 trillion global electronics industry (VLSI Research Chip Insider, January 23, 2018) that required approximately US$350 billion of semiconductors, which was up by around 20% compared to 2016, driven mostly by higher prices in memory devices. In turn, the semiconductor industry supported the approximately US$71 billion semiconductor capital equipment industry (up around 30% compared to 2016), which supplies the required production systems and services. The equipment segment was driven mostly by capacity expansion in 3D-NAND memory fabs, technology conversion investments in DRAM memory fabs, and new technology generation investments in logic and foundry fabs.
We serve the wafer processing equipment segment, which is part of the capital equipment segment. This, in 2017, was worth approximately US$47 billion. Demand for semiconductor capital equipment is driven both by growth in the market for semiconductor devices and the new technology needed to realize the next generation of devices.
We also supply equipment to leading manufacturers of analog semiconductor devices, which are important for enabling the increasing semiconductor content used in most products worldwide.
The analog market includes a wide array of chip types, including:
The industry recently adopted the phrase ‘More than Moore’, to identify and acknowledge a strongly-growing market of various types of analog chips which are not driven by the same Moore’s Law technology scaling inflections of mainstream logic and memory chips. But these 'More than Moore' devices often have their own various technology challenges.
The semiconductor capital equipment market is composed of three major market segments:
We are active in the wafer processing segment. Within wafer processing equipment, the major segments are:
The principal market segment in which we participate is deposition and related tools. Within the deposition market, the major equipment technology segments are:
Our products include wafer processing deposition systems for CVD, ALD, epitaxy, and diffusion/furnace. We make two types of process tools: single-wafer and batch. The majority of our business comes from single-wafer tools, which are designed to process an individual wafer in each processing chamber on the tool.
In contrast, a batch tool is designed such that a large number of wafers are processed simultaneously in a larger processing chamber. Batch tools typically achieve a higher throughput compared to single wafer tools.
Single-wafer tools typically achieve a higher level of process performance and control, especially for complex, critical applications. We work closely with our customers to meet their demands, and in recent years we have developed single wafer tools with multiple chambers configured together in a compact way on a single platform. This approach offers the best of both worlds, combining high productivity and a high level of performance.
Our XP platform is a high-productivity common 300mm single-wafer platform that can be configured with up to four process modules. The XP platform enables high-volume multi-chamber parallel processing or integration of sequential process steps on one platform. The XP common platform benefits our customers through reduced operating costs, as many of our products use the same parts and consumables, and a common control architecture improves ease of use.
Our XP8 platform follows the basic architectural standards of the XP, but provides even higher productivity with up to eight chambers integrated on a single-wafer platform with a small footprint.
We are a leading supplier of ALD equipment and process solutions for the semiconductor industry. Today, our ALD process technology delivers the highest performance available to support the next generation of semiconductor devices.
ALD allows us to deposit thin films atom-by-atom on silicon wafers, meaning we can deliver atomic-scale thickness control, high-quality deposition film properties, and large area uniformity.
With such precision, we can use materials that previously could not be considered, and develop 3D structures that are vital to the future of electronics. 3D technology provides a number of real benefits, including saving space while delivering chips with higher performance that consume less power.
Our ALD technology is being used to build ICs for a wide range of leading-edge products, including high-performance computers and smartphones. The results of ALD are visible everywhere in the world around us.
ALD is also our basic platform for the development of a wide range of new materials. Our research centers across the globe are working on ALD, and we are conducting joint research projects with Europe’s largest independent research institute, imec. Taken together, this helps make ALD one of the principal drivers for future growth in microelectronics.
Using ALD, we can deposit new materials several atoms thick on semiconductor wafers, producing ultra-thin films of exceptional quality and uniformity.
In PEALD, plasma is used to provide the reaction energy for the process, enabling us to use lower temperatures for low-thermal budget applications. This technology was introduced in DRAM and planar NAND flash manufacturing in the 3x nm node, for spacer-defined double patterning (SDDP), a technique that can reduce device dimensions, postponing the need for new lithography technologies.
Using ALD technology, we can scale devices to smaller dimensions while reducing the power consumption of transistors, all of which helps the industry follow Moore’s Law and create smaller, more powerful semiconductors. For advanced 3D memory applications, where devices are stacked vertically in high densities, ALD is critical for uniformly depositing films in deep trenches and over complicated features. Many new applications are emerging where ALD is the technology of choice, and in a number of cases the only solution that meets the challenging technology requirements.
We expect ALD to be one of the principal drivers of growth in microelectronics over the coming decade. In addition, we expect growth in other deposition technologies, including epitaxy for advanced transistors and PECVD for creating improved interconnects. Looking ahead, we will continue to develop the huge potential of our deposition technologies in support of the semiconductor industry, enabling the industry to support the future demands of consumers and businesses.
Epitaxy is a critical process technology for creating advanced transistors and memories. The epitaxy process is used for depositing precisely controlled crystalline silicon-based layers that are important for semiconductor device electrical properties. In some cases, the epitaxy films incorporate dopant atoms to achieve specific material properties.
Epitaxy process temperature control is of the utmost importance. We have developed new methods of temperature control in our Intrepid ES epitaxy tool that enable improved film performance and repeatability in volume production. Furthermore, Intrepid’s closed-loop reactor temperature control enables enhanced stability in production.
Focusing on product stewardship and product life cycle (PLC) management involves taking responsibility to reduce the product’s environmental impact along its entire life cycle, i.e. from cradle to grave. Ultimately, this approach enables us to make products more efficiently and productively for our customers, while extending the products' useful life.
Our product lifecycle process follows the well-established construct of phase-gate product development guided by several key inputs:
Product-specific requirements realized from these inputs are documented in market requirement specifications (MRS), which are held as the objectives we need to meet through the product development process. The MRS is continually updated to capture changes to market conditions, regulations and standards, and related specifications.
Governance is provided by the Management Board and their direct staff through key technical meetings (architecture reviews, design reviews and validation reviews) and phase exit meetings through the various lifecycle stages of the product.
Our product safety policy is part of our global business management system, and is delivered and maintained by our Product Safety Steering Council. This policy defines the requirements, processes, and roles and responsibilities in support of our vision to achieve ZERO HARM! in product safety.
Product safety requirements are defined and maintained by the Product Safety Committee, which includes engineers representing each of the design centers. These requirements are established in the PLC during the requirements phase. The requirements include legislation and standards from the semiconductor industry and customers. During the concept and design phase, as well as safety reviews and safety risk assessments, we verify that safety requirements are being met. Independent third-party validations are done during the validation phase. This helps ensure that our products are safe to operate and maintain, both at our own locations and those of our customers. The Product Safety Committee meets regularly to refine this process and implement continuous improvement opportunities. In addition, we integrate the identification of opportunities for safety design improvements into our global safety reporting system. This system enables our engineers and technicians, who work with our equipment on a daily basis to report opportunities for improvement. These reports are reviewed on a daily basis. Corrective actions, and lessons learned are captured. This data is invaluable in linking the end user with the design process.
Our stakeholders working with our equipment rely on this process of continual assessment, integration, and improvement, to make sure they can work safely with our products.