Tokyo Electron highlights environmentally friendly solutions

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Peter Karl Loewenhardt. Credit: Tokyo Electron

Driven by leading edge investment, global semiconductor equipment billings increased 38% year-over-year to US$26.8 billion in the third quarter of 2021, and an 8% rise from the prior quarter to register the fifth consecutive quarter-over-quarter record high, according to the SEMI report on December 1st 2021. This is continuously on track to register a rare three consecutive years of record highs in fab equipment spending from 2020. Strong demands for IC chips across a wide range of markets including high performance computing (HPC), 5G communications, artificial intelligence (AI) and automotive applications have fueled this tremendous increase of growth for semiconductor equipment. The equipment market's booming growth is the envy of industries around the world.

An interview with Peter Karl Loewenhardt, Senior Vice President at Tokyo Electron Taiwan (TEL in Taiwan), takes a closer look at why this industry is so exciting. Co-optimized devices driven by huge demands of 5G, AI and HPC chips, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, accelerated the Digital Transformation of Society which is accelerating the whole industry.

This brings new challenges for equipment makers and supply chains that not only need to deliver leading edge process technology, but also excellent manufacturability to be able to have repeatable performance in every device. Nowadays, rapidly evolving manufacturing technologies have become more and more key as the complicated nature of all these devices has grown, as well as continuously reducing the impact on the environment of all these processes. "It is now all these areas that TEL is focused on, and we are excited to contribute to our customers and to the industry," he adds.

The global shortage of chips that has forced automakers to limit or halt production has brought attention to Taiwan's supply chains in semiconductor manufacturing. It is very impressive that some Taiwan foundries have been very successful at gaining and maintaining their customer's trust, continually developing new technologies and making them well manufactured both in the advanced and legacy nodes and being able to support a large number of products and customers all at the same time. Being competitive in all these areas at the same time while also being profitable is how some Taiwan foundries have become very successful and will remain successful, Loewenhardt observed.

Atomic level-controlled processing technologies aiming at next generation film deposition and removal technology

Talking about new developments in advanced nodes, as simple feature size shrinking can no longer alone meet requirements anymore, new 3D structures and material systems have become important as new devices emerge. With intense collaboration with customers, TEL actively provides process solutions for 3-dimensional structures. From atomic level-controlled deposition/coating to atomic level-controlled removal, this technology becomes a unique tool for producing or removing very thin, highly conformal coatings with a thickness controlled at the atomic level. TEL has developed and continues to develop technologies to address these challenges.

Apart from 3D structures, regarding future trends there is a growing importance of Advanced Packaging and Systems integration. Heterogeneous integration of different dies together in 3D can help continue the density increase in a more economically feasible way, as well as continually advancing the on-chip technologies. TEL has developed wafer bonder equipment for 3D integration. This area will continue to get a lot of attention going forward.

Sustainable Development Goals reducing the impact on the environment

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight the world's shared plans and environmental issues and are a call to action for governments, industrial players, civil society and the technical community to achieve a better and more sustainable future. Semiconductor fabs consume large amounts of electricity, water, and chemicals. As a leading equipment manufacturer, TEL contributes by focusing on semiconductor production equipment that can manufacture devices in a way that reduce the impact on the global environment.

On the other hand, Digital Transformation, in particular, plays a significant role in achieving the SDG targets by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sustainable development. TEL recently established a Digital Design Square in Sapporo as a new base for further digital transformation activities enabling AI technologies.

For example, in developing a baseline process for a low-stress film, whereas engineers typically took about 50 experiments to get to the desired baseline process, using Machine Learning technologies the optimal process conditions were arrived at in only 3 experiments, thereby using less wafers and resources. This was not only faster, but also minimized the use of electricity, gases, and silicon substrates, resulting in significant savings of energy and resources. Faster, and less impact on the environment.

Other examples using technology come from all the product areas TEL has items in various stages of development which are; reducing wet clean chemistry usage; reducing deposition heater power; idling components when not being used; sharing components. Relentlessly improving TEL tools' manufacturing performance thereby increasing customer's output so there is less waste.

Additionally, TEL has set its Sustainable Development Goals to add focus on how to deliver leading edge technology while also having the industry's equipment and processes reduce the impact on the environment. TEL last year revised its mid-term environmental goals for 2030 to be industry leading. The intention is to take the lead in achieving SDGs to support aggressive information and communication technologies in the Digital Transformation of society while also reducing the impact on the environment. Achieving SDGs are now critically important for the semiconductor industry, and TEL will continuously work on advanced node devices and contribute to SDGs for building a resilient supply chain in which economic activities do not stop under any circumstances.

Peter Karl Loewenhardt, Senior Vice President at Tokyo Electron Taiwan

Peter Karl Loewenhardt, Senior Vice President at Tokyo Electron Taiwan
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