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Ultratech laser system picked by SUNY

24 Jul 2013

Spike annealing system to be used in development of 450mm semiconductor wafer manufacturing process.

The semiconductor industry’s “Global 450-mm Consortium” (G450C) has selected US-based Ultratech’s laser spike annealing (LSA) technology as a key tool as it works on the future generation of silicon chips.

Headquartered at SUNY's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in Albany, New York, G450C is a public-private partnership. It was announced by New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo in September 2011, with the aim of helping the industry to transition from current 300mm wafer production to the larger 450mm size.

Following a high-profile launch including former US president Bill Clinton among others, the partnership involves key semiconductor chip makers like Intel, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung and TSMC.

450mm wafer processes are being developed within a new dedicated clean room at CNSE's Albany NanoTech complex, and earlier this month the consortium signed a $350 million, five-year investment partnership with Japan’s Nikon to develop lithography tools suitable for the larger wafers.

Ultratech's existing LSA system is already being used regularly in high-volume production of logic devices on 300mm silicon wafers, and is said to be “readily scalable” to the larger format. Ultratech says it will deliver its 450mm LSA system to the G450C program's equipment line in late 2013.

System scales easily
Arthur Zafiropoulo, Ultratech’s CEO, explained: "LSA's advantages of low pattern effects, full-wafer temperature control, and low-stress processing have been demonstrated in high-volume manufacturing at 300mm, and now we will carry those same advantages to the 450mm wafer size.”

“Because LSA is a scanning system, it is quite straightforward to scale the system to larger wafer sizes, as compared to full-wafer processing systems. Furthermore, we are now seeing an increase in LSA applications beyond the ultra-shallow junction formation, and we expect this trend to continue as we move to smaller device nodes where 450mm will be adopted.”

While the tool placement bodes well for Ultratech in the longer term – 450mm wafer manufacturing is not expected to become widespread for several years – in the near term the company is being affected by further delays to the semiconductor industry’s ramp of new “FinFET” transistor devices.

Last week, the company’s stock price was hit as Zafiropoulo told an investor conference call that the delay, which was initially expected to last six months, would now likely stretch into next year.

Ultratech’s sales figures for the second quarter of 2013 reflected the ongoing challenges, with the company posting revenues of $42.9 million – down from $59.1 million a year ago. Despite the sales slump, the company was still able to report a small net income of $0.9 million, down from $11.2 million in the same period last year.

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