We create value through our technologies by enabling leading semiconductor and technology industry partners to deliver the world of tomorrow through our innovative processing solutions and equipment. We partner with our customers and stakeholders to develop new materials, processes, and technologies that support their technology roadmaps that shape the world of the Internet of Things, smart cars, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing.
In the chip-making process, we are now creating transistors that are only a small number of nanometers in width. Connecting billions of nanoscopic transistors on a single chip requires an astonishing degree of precision and control. As a leading supplier of equipment and process solutions to the semiconductor industry, our technology makes this possible.
Our advanced deposition technologies support cost-effective products enabling the electronic devices of the future. This leads to electronic devices that deliver ever-greater performance while reducing their energy consumption. Higher performance translates into more processing power, while a lower energy requirements means smaller, longer-lasting, more efficient products. This enables our customers to further integrate smart technology into a wider range of their products.
The result is value creation not only for our customers, but for all of our stakeholders. For example, our employees enjoy the challenge of developing cutting-edge technology solutions, and have the opportunity for advancement. Our suppliers, in addition to a higher activity level, also benefit from improved quality based on the use of statistical methods employed in our supplier process control program.
The industry’s relentless push to follow Moore’s Law leads to the continuous demand for smaller, faster, and cheaper semiconductor components. Thus, the minimum size of a single transistor in an integrated circuit is an important parameter. 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.
Today, our customers manufacture semiconductor devices as small as 10 nanometers (one nanometer, or nm, is one billionth of a meter), sometimes in a vertical 3D transistor or FinFET architecture. Our customers are already 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. These next-generation technology nodes are increasing the demand for new materials and more complex process integration methods.
In developing faster and smaller devices, our customers’ major technology requirements are:
In order to meet our customers’ needs, we are developing many new materials. For example, ALD technology is used to create ultra-thin films of exceptional quality and flatness. 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 that enables precise deposition at very low temperatures. One application of PEALD is spacer defined multi-patterning, whereby the deposition of a highly conformal oxide spacer enables the extension of existing optical lithography technology beyond its basic resolution limits. Another example of new materials is from epitaxy deposition.
Epitaxy is a process for depositing highly controlled silicon-based crystalline films. Many epitaxy steps are used to create the transistor channel and for channel engineering to improve transistor performance. Our silicon-germanium (SiGe) and silicon-carbon-phosphorous (SiCP) epitaxial materials can increase the switching speed of the transistors and the circuit in which they are embedded by so-called strain engineering. Strained silicon is a layer in which the atoms are stretched beyond their normal interatomic distance, allowing higher electron mobility. This results in faster transistor switching at lower power. In 2017, we introduced a new epitaxy tool, the Intrepid ES, for advanced-node CMOS logic and memory applications, which offers an innovative closed-loop reactor temperature control system enabling precise process control, high productivity, and low cost per wafer.
For interconnect processes, 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, and we are continuing to develop improvements to this low-k technology to enable faster interconnect circuits.
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 customers’ line, and further lower the cost per wafer of the wafer processing systems.
An excellent example of high productivity is our XP8 platform, on which we offer PEALD and PECVD processes. The XP8 incorporates eight process chambers in a compact configuration around one central handling platform. Two wafers are moved simultaneously into dual chamber modules (DCM), which generally doubles the throughput compared to single wafer movements. Eagle XP8 PEALD tools and Dragon XP8 PECVD tools are in volume manufacturing at logic and memory fabs worldwide, and demonstrate reliable advanced performance with high productivity.
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 Microchemistry, who first developed 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 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, silicon nitride, and other materials. We expect the trends of continued scaling, and evolution towards 3D device structures for both logic and memory devices, to 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 technology enables precision deposition of thin films in various steps in the fabrication of semiconductor chips, helping our customers build the most advanced chips used in the electronics systems throughout society.
Our business model 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 employees, society, and other stakeholders. Fundamental to our model is R&D investment, including basic chemical, materials, and feasibility research, followed by process and product developments. We endeavor to continuously employ experts in the semiconductor process and equipment technology fields. We cooperate with research institutes and our customers to understand the technology roadmap challenges and to develop the appropriate process and equipment solutions required. Our manufacturing facilities allow us to deliver high-quality systems on schedule so that our customers can ramp their fabrication plants. We support our customers globally with process and equipment service, and spare parts.