New approaches in chipmaking and fast-evolving specialty markets are driving the need for new equipment on the fab floor. 3D chips (be they stacked or bonded), MEMS, lighting, power – they’re all leveraging wafer substrates in new ways. Altatech, the equipment division of SOI-wafer leader Soitec, has just announced new inspection equipment for foundry and IDM customers fabbing 3D and other chips. ASN talks to Jean-Luc Delcarri, Altatech general manager, about the company and its recent announcements.
Advanced Substrate News (ASN): Can you tell us briefly about the company and the markets it serves?
Jean-Luc Delcarri (JLD): Altatech makes specialty equipment for the fab floor. We have two main areas of deep expertise: one is in defect inspection, and the other is in CVD* technologies for semiconductor, LEDs, MEMS and photovoltaic devices. I founded the company in 2004, and then in 2012 we became a subsidiary of SOI wafer leader, Soitec.
ASN: At Semicon Europa 2015, you announced “…a new, high-speed inspection system for ultra-thin, transparent and bonded substrates inspection for 3D applications in power, MEMS and mobile technologies.” What’s driving that market?
JLP: Yes, at Semicon we announced the Eclipse TS, which is a unique, high-reliability and easy-to-implement inspection system solution that’s now ready for mass production.
You’ve got the need for these advanced substrates that’s being driven by really rapidly growing markets in automotive, industrial power and mobile electronics. We’ve been working quietly on this tool for years, and now the Eclipse TS has been qualified for volume manufacturing at a leading-edge semiconductor manufacturer, so we’re really excited about it.
ASN: What makes the Eclipse TS different from other inspection sytems?
JLP: When you’re looking for defects on these advanced wafer solutions, you have to do much more than scan the top: you need to inspect the front side, the back side and the edge of very thin wafers – and you have to do it without touching them. Our ability to do all this makes us totally unique on the market: we have built this tool on a strong IP portfolio.
So with the Eclipse TS, you have a high-speed inspection system that can measure very thin and stacked wafers down to 50 microns, as well as Taiko rings, stacked substrates and silicon-on-glass wafers. Plus we can do the front-side, back-side and edge inspection in one pass with no back-side contact.
In today’s 3D technologies, substrates undergo grinding, stacking and gluing, so you can end up with wafers with a very high bow, or wafers with a warp of up to 6 mm. We can handle those wafers. In fact, the Eclipse system can monitor these sorts of processes. The inspection occurs without any contact on the active surface, and at a throughout of more than 90 wafers per hour for 300-mm substrates.
We’re of course compliant with the latest automation standards, so the system can be fully integrated into the line, and provide comprehensive reporting for defects classification and yield maps.
Our full Altatech Eclipse series covers advanced metrology and holistic inspection systems. That means we can detect, count and bin defects during the wafer manufacturing process as well as do continuous outgoing wafer-quality inspection. So the quality of both the wafer-surface and edge is ensured. We also have proprietary Eclipse sub-modules that detect specific sorts of particles and defects of interest for both patterned or unpatterned wafers.
All that puts Altatech in a leading position in what is a very large market opportunity.
ASN: You also make CVD – deposition – equipment. Can you tell us a little about that, and what’s driving those markets?
JLP: Sure. Last year we introduced the AltaCVD 3D Memory Cell™, which is the newest member of our AltaCVD product line. This is used for depositing ultra-thin semiconductor films when you’re manufacturing the high-density, low-power memory chips used throughout mobile electronics. Our new system does atomic-layer deposition 10 times faster than conventional ALD** systems, which is of course huge when you’re manufacturing advanced memories where you need to run in very high-volume production with extreme cost efficiency.
In the new 3D device architectures for mobile apps, our customers are looking to really increase memory capacity and boost performance. And to do this, they need very advanced material deposition to create atomic-layer films with high uniformity – you really are at the atomic level of control here. The AltaCVD 3D Memory Cell deposits layers of chalcogenide*** materials by using a combination of precursors, which is very leading edge.
So with our tool you can use conventional gaseous or solid precursors, but we also have a patented pulsed technology, which means you can also use advanced CVD precursors that are available only in liquid form. This is remarkable versatility: it allows us to achieve exceptional step coverage over features with very high aspect ratios – that’s a key performance requirement when you’re talking about vertical integration high-density memory circuits.
You can also use it for advanced pre-treatment of semiconductor surfaces (which improves circuit functionality), as well as post-treatment of surfaces (which enhances electrical performance).
Because it’s used in everything from research to high-volume manufacturing, it can process 200-mm or 300-mm substrates, and uses a single-wafer, multi-chamber architecture. One of our key customers demonstrated it last year. We’re now selling production units, and we’re pleased to say it’s been very successful.
ASN: Do you have other products in the pipeline?
JLP: Next up we have a new solution for high aspect ratio 3D copper deposition. The system, which is called RUBY, can deposit a barrier layer of titanium nitride or tantalum nitride with almost 100% step coverage on an aspect ratio higher than 10:1. This is followed by deposition of a copper seed layer with similar performance. Combined with a proprietary copper cleaning process, it will be able to meet the growing challenge of copper metallization in MEMS and semiconductor 3D integration. We’ll release it as soon as we’ve completed our product milestones for reliability and performance.
ASN: Where do you see the highest-growth areas?
JLP: We’ve developed the right technology for the right time in a number of key markets, so we’re really well-positioned to answer the needs of a number of high-growth markets. The move to 450mm wafers is something we’re ready for, which will probably happen first in advanced memories. But in the meantime we also see significant activity in MEMS, RF, high power and LEDs. We’re winning customers in China who are looking to be leaders in these markets. All in all, much of the future of the phone in your pocket depends on what we can help our customers do in high-volume and cost-effectively on the fab floor – so it’s a very exciting time to be in this business.
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*CVD=chemical vapor deposition
**ALD=atomic layer deposition
*** chalcogenides include sulphides, selenides, and tellurides
Two new products from semi equipment manufacturer Altatech: one for ultra-thin film deposition, and one for searching out nano-defects. Altatech is a division of Soitec, best known in the advanced substrates community for its leadership in SOI wafers. This part of the company, however, develops highly efficient, cost-effective inspection and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technologies used for R&D and manufacturing of semiconductors, LEDs, MEMS and photovoltaic devices.
The company’s newest inspection system, the Orion Lightspeed™, is capable of pinpointing the size and location of nano-scale defects inside compound semiconductor materials and transparent substrates (see press release here). The new system helps to ensure the quality control of high-value engineered substrates used in several fast growing markets including high-brightness LEDs, power semiconductors and 3D ICs. Inspection is based on Altatech’s patented synchronous Doppler detection™ technology, which determines the exact size and position of defects by making direct physical measurements with resolution below 100 nm. This provides true defect sizing, as opposed to other types of inspection equipment on the market that make indirect measurements using diffracted light to calculate approximate defect sizes. It handles 200mm or 300mm substrates, with throughput of 85 and 80 wafers per hour, respectively. Beta systems have already been installed at customers’ facilities and are demonstrating excellent performance. Shipments of production units are scheduled to begin in April 2015.
The new AltaCVD 3D Memory Cell™ is the latest member of Altatech’s AltaCVD line, designed to deposit ultra-thin semiconductor films that enable the manufacturing of high-density, low-power memory ICs used throughout mobile electronics (see press release here). The new system performs atomic-layer deposition 10 times faster than conventional atomic-layer deposition (ALD) systems, helping to meet global market demands for both high-volume production and cost efficiency in fabricating advanced memories. The system is currently demonstrating its unique capabilities and performance at one of Altatech’s key customers. Production units are available.
Altatech, a subsidiary of Soitec, has received an order for its Orion LedMax wafer inspection and metrology system from OSRAM Opto Semiconductors GmbH, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of opto electronic components (read press release here). OSRAM will use the tool to improve the performance, cost efficiency and yield of its LED-processing operations. The leading-edge inspection system, suitable for both volume manufacturing and R&D applications, will perform production control and new product qualification of OSRAM’s epitaxial wafers used in fabricating LEDs.
Best known to many as the world leader in SOI wafer manufacturing, Soitec’s other divisions are also leaders in their areas, with wafer manufacturing equipment and products related to LEDs and solar (CPV) technology.
The University of Washington’s Nanofabrication Facility (WNF) is the first North American institution to get an AltaCVD™ chemical vapor deposition (CVD) system (press release here). The AltaCVD system uses pulsed deposition technology to offer a unique combination of capabilities for developing new materials. It can perform atomic layer deposition (ALD) for exceptional 3D coverage at deposition rates matching those of more conventional CVD techniques. The system will be used by both internal and external researchers in fabricating a broad range of semiconductor-based devices including leading-edge CMOS transistors, MEMS, ICs built with the latest in through-silicon-via (TSV) technology, advanced LEDs and solar cells. Altatech is a subsidiary of Soitec (the world leader in SOI wafer manufacturing). AltaCVD systems have been used extensively in R&D and pilot production facilities throughout Europe; however, the University of Washington’s order represents the first such system to be delivered to a North American university R&D and pilot production facility.
Dr. Michael Khbeis, acting director of the WNF, said, “The AltaCVD system provides a unique capability that enables researchers to deposit conformal metal films for TSV applications as well as metal oxides and nitrides for high-k dielectrics and piezoelectric materials. The higher deposition rate enabled by pulsed CVD makes ALD films a tractable solution for scale-up paths toward high-volume manufacturing for our researchers and industrial clients. This ensures a viable pathway from academia to real economic impact in our region.”
Altatech, a CVD/equipment subsidiary of SOI wafer leader Soitec, announced a new collaborative partnership to research and develop materials for the next generation of high-efficiency solar cells. Joining forces with Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, Altatech will be working on new classes of materials and innovative device structures for photovoltaic and photocatalysis applications. Altatech will install a new single-substrate multi-chamber solution (an AltaCVD system) at HZB’s newly constructed Energy Materials In-situ Laboratory (EMIL) at the synchrotron light source BESSY II facility in Berlin. (Read press release here.)