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New applications spur demand for thin layer deposition tools

THE GLOBAL MARKET for thin layer deposition equipment is projected to reach US$ 18.5 billion by 2018.

This will be driven by emerging applications in medical imaging devices, specialty packaging and industrial coatings according to Global Industry Analysts’ “ Thin Layer Deposition Equipment: A Global Strategic Business,” report. Defined as the building block of miniaturisation and MEMS processing, thin layer deposition is a critical part of the fabrication process and is key to the production of all electronic devices.

With surface treatment applications ranging from electronic components,

electronic displays, optical coatings, and optical data storage devices to antistatic coatings, thin layer deposition is expected to witness strong growth in the coming years.

A significant portion of the growth is expected to stem from the robustly growing electronics industry. Developments in equipment design and performance, innovations in thin film materials and processes will also help spur growth.

Typically, demand for Thin Film Deposition (TFD) equipment is largely tied to the demand for semiconductors, electronics, and medical devices, among

PVD system for 300mm power devices

SPTS is to launch its Sigma fxP physical vapour deposition (PVD) system (shown below) for 300mm power device manufacturing. Available system options include modules for frontside thick aluminium processing and backside metal deposition on ultra-thin wafers. The new system is designed to address the technical challenges customers face as they scale power PVD processes up to 300mm wafer size.

In a discrete MOSFET power device, current passes through the silicon substrate so electrical contacts are required on both sides of the wafer. Due to the high currents involved, thick aluminium alloy layers are deposited on the front side of the wafer (typically over 4 µm rather than less than 1 µm for mainstream silicon interconnects).

However, depositing thick films puts unusually large heat loads on process chamber hardware, potentially resulting in film contamination from outgassing in the chamber furniture.

This contamination can lead to the formation of aluminium whiskers/ extrusions in the growing film that can ultimately result in device killer defects. In traditional front end fab deposition equipment, a common technique to mitigate this issue is to reduce film

deposition rates with a corresponding reduction on system productivity. However, SPTS says the Sigma fxP design overcomes that challenge without compromising throughput. Sigma fxP users routinely deposit thick aluminium layers at above 1.4 µm/min without any yield destroying whiskers or extrusions.

With frontside processing complete, wafers are thinned down to 50 µm or less to reduce ‘on-state’ resistance and solder metal layers are deposited on the backside. No supporting carrier substrates are used and the ultra-thin, large area wafer will deform under the influence of uncontrolled film stresses, with miss-handling a potential consequence.

The Sigma fxP carries thin wafer handling hardware and uses film deposition stress control techniques to deliver high throughput processes with low wafer bow. SPTS says that currently, seven out of the top ten power device manufacturers, and major foundries use the Sigma fxP as the process tool for power PVD processing.

With power device manufacturing moving to 300mm format wafers, SPTS has successfully transferred its process knowledge and capability to the new platform.

others. Periods of economic slowdown tend to curtail consumer spending thus impacting business opportunities in this market.

The capital intensiveness of the industry also makes investments a cyclical pattern with growth occurring largely during periods of intermittent revolutionary technology developments.

Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) Equipment is set to witness considerable demand in the short to medium term period, with ALD process finding large-scale adoption in several end-use application areas.

For a long time, the ALD process has been utilised to generate thin films with different compositions such as nitrides, oxides, pure metals, and carbides among others.

The hallmark of this technology is its ability to produce monolayers on a molecular or atomic scale thus making it highly suitable for deposition of nano- films with thickness less than 100 nm on various surfaces, including polymers, metals and ceramics.

ALD equipment is expected to witness increased adoption as a manipulation and fabrication tool in nanotechnology. What’s more, the ALD equipment market is projected to witness increasing demand from non-IC and IC applications.

A marked trend towards miniaturisation of components is also driving the market, given the technology’s proven efficiency in fabrication of smaller size components. Also, with semiconductor fabricators expected to invest in new manufacturing equipment, the market is forecast to witness tremendous opportunity in the coming years. ALD equipment will also find increased adoption in production of other advanced devices such as OLEDs.

The report says Asia-Pacific represents the largest and the fastest growing market with a projected CAGR of 4.9 percent over the analysis period. PVD equipment represents the largest product market.

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