Trend Setters- With a renewed focus on lowering costs while also increasing manufacturing speeds, yields, and efficiencies, manufacturers of semiconductor machinery are banking on new technology, outsourcing, and lower-cost designs to ready themselves for the next wave of semiconductor demand.
Design News interviewed key engineers to understand the trends, challenges, technology development areas, and industry response to weak business conditions. Here 's what we learned: Tom Solon, APPLICATIONS ENGINEER, KERK MOTION PRODUCTS. The major trend in semiconductor manufacturing is the focus on new 300-mm machinery development programs. They are driving the majority of new design work, even though the downturn slowed the conversion.
Wafer ID Reading Goes Mainstream- The move to 300-mm wafers in semiconductor manufacturing is leading to increased emphasis on 100%traceability and wafer ID reading techniques to increase the flow of process information and improve product yields. "New 300-mm machinery is an area where every tool has wafer ID," says Mike Kelley, of Electro Scientific Industries (www.esi.com). Kelley says that increased value of each wafer, along with the standards being followed by early adopters such as Infineon, Samsung, and Intel, have made wafer ID a mandated requirement for 300-mm machines.
Flexibility is King- Tom Solon,Applications Engineer, Kerk Motion Products
Design News: What are the major trends you see in semiconductor manufacturing? Kerk:300-mm machinery development programs are driving new development and are the focus of new product design. There 's also a strong desire to lower costs, which is impacting development. For example, there are more requests for theoretical data to facilitate modeling of a system. Consolidation of manufacturing, with contract fab and assembly services in the Far East, means flexibility is king. The more products that a tool can handle, the greater the tool 's appeal.
Q: So has the slowdown in semiconductor manufacturing actually improved the design process?
A: Yes. When business was strong, OEMs were evolving their existing machines. Now they have more time for upfront design work and are keeping costs under control when they build. The result is a better understanding of what the results may be. Engineering groups are sharing resources more frequently. There are many more parallel activities going on within groups. In the past, we had situations where two design groups were trying to solve a similar problem from totally different directions because they didn't have the time to communicate. Now, companies have core competencies involved with multiple projects, so a solution can be implemented in multiple projects.