Development of special equipment for electronic components production as an important component of the country’s security
for the manufacture of advanced electronic components. The company’s solutions have
a high reputation and are popular not only
in Russia but also in the international market.
The General Director of SemiTEq JSC Aleksei Alekseev told us about a state and actual
problems of the Russian electronic mechanical engineering, successful experience in the international market and a problem of import substitution.
Russian electronic industry continues to grow in spite of some difficulties that accompanied the industry in the last two decades. The enterprises gradually retrofit the facilities, install modern processing equipment, introduce new technologies. But to talk about independence in the development and manufacture of electronic components it is only possible, if under control is the entire process chain of product creation – from the manufacture of basic materials (e.g., substrates and pure gases) to the control and measuring equipment to measure the key parameters of the devices at the stage of their acceptance by the customer – manufacturer of end equipment. Unfortunately, a number of the links of this chain was practically not developed during the previous decade, and one of them is a special process equipment. Strong once the industry of electronic engineering, having lost the state support in the 1990-ies, has been reduced in fact to initiative developments of a few private Russian companies. In General, the Russian electronic industry was in near-total dependence on foreign suppliers. An additional negative factor is the absence of a system of state regulation of import of special process equipment. As a result, companies with similar specialization was equipped with different-type sets of foreign process equipment. This, in turn, hinders or completely eliminates the horizontal cooperation of enterprises due to inconsistencies of technological routes, built on different sets of special process equipment. However, the global experience shows that effective moving forward in knowledge-intensive industries requires close cooperation with market participants.
What is the volume of the Russian market of electronic components and the associated market of special process equipment? Are there any prerequisites for their growth?
According to the Frost & Sullivan the domestic market of electronic components is $2.7 billion – less than 1% of the global total. However, experts describe him as one of the most promising, with an annual growth of about 15%. The market as a special process equipment in Russia, according to various estimates, ranges from $0.7 billion to $1 billion with annual growth of 10-12%. The growth of the Russian market of electronic components in the next 10 years will be associated primarily with the development of the defence industry and special technics.
More than 70% of the total market of electronic components, including products of industrial and commercial electronics, occupied by foreign manufacturers due to either the lack of, or limited domestic industrial and technological base. Thus, for the development of Russian electronic industry, which is directly related to security of the country, it is strategically important the import substitution to ensure key process operations of manufacturing of perspective types of electronic components.
I think that as the most important factor for the growth of the market of the end products can be considered an availability of whole complex of available modern processing equipment. Eventually possibility of introduction of a certain technology of electronic components production depends on it. To address the challenges of increasing production of electronic components in critical areas of production of civil, special and dual purpose, it is necessary to pay special attention to reducing dependence on foreign supplies of special process equipment. Moreover, most modern special process equipment is a subject of export restrictions, and delivery of new equipment and the maintenance of the already built into the production process can be terminated at any time due to the developing policy of sanctions against the Russian Federation. The development of electronic industry, based on the procurement of imported equipment without creating of national production, is extremely vulnerable from the point of view of national security.
What types of Russian special process equipment meet modern requirements?
Russian equipment for molecular beam epitaxy of R&D class can be used for the production of epitaxial structures on substrates with a diameter up to 100 mm. As an example, can lead to the developments of the SemiTEq JSC. Our systems are unique because they are the only Russian mass-produced. However, our experts have noted that the performance of these machines is already insufficient to meet the growing needs of the Russian enterprises in the epitaxial material (first of all, in the case of GaAs and microwave applications). Now we need to create domestic equipment of average efficiency (3×100 mm, 1×150 mm in the same process), which will be economically more efficient, than more productive systems of foreign companies, designed for mass production of the epitaxial structures for manufacturing of commercial electronics. The development of domestic production-oriented system of molecular beam epitaxy is important to ensure safety of the country. We are already thinking about this task and want to be part of the solution. The development of such complexity requires a significant investment, and the government is very interested in the development of this segment of the domestic market.
The equipment for highly demanded in the market organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy, used primarily in optoelectronics, in Russia, is not yet made. At the same time, Russia has accumulated a huge backlog and there are pilot development of experimental samples of such equipment, that needs to be used for development of a domestic production.
In the segment of the equipment for planar processes, the situation is better – there are a number of domestic developers and manufacturers. But, although some special process systems are not inferior to foreign analogues, the average level of Russian equipment for planar process is lower. We, as professionals, especially in wide-gap materials A3B5, estimate the market of complex semiconductors that can be used to develop a wide range of advanced products. Domestic special process equipment designed for individual processing of up to 100 mm wafers. In reality, it provides the required settings on the 2 and 3 inches wafers. In the medium term for such substrates as GaAs and SiC (LEDs) requires equipment that would be provide group processing of 100 mm wafers and individual processing of 150 mm wafers with very high quality, reproducibility and uniformity.
It should be noted, that the performance of most Russian equipment for planar processes lags behind the growing needs of manufacturers of electronic components. Therefore, for the security of the country the import substitution in this market segment is needed.
What are the problems facing the Russian manufacturers of special process equipment?
Problems of domestic manufacturers of equipment and electronic components can be characterized as systemic. They all arose because of the lack of an integrated approach to the development of industry by the state in the last 25 years. This has led to breaking of ties between manufacturers of electronic components and special process equipment. So it developed, that the majority of the enterprises, which have received in the last decade funding for the modernization of material-technical base, tried to acquire the foreign equipment. Somewhere it was caused by the absence at that time of competitive Russian developments, and in some cases worked stereotype "import still better." As a result, broken horizontal cooperation and exchange of technology in the joint developments of domestic manufacturers of electronic components. It is also important, that the vast majority of equipment made in the USA and Western Europe, and, in the case of the deterioration of their relations with Russia, it quickly gets into restrictive lists. This affects the possibility of purchasing of new equipment for the development of processes, and the maintenance of previously acquired units.
I am convinced, that for the development of the domestic market of electronic components need to implement complex projects for the development of equipment – then it will be easily integrated into production processes of enterprises throughout Russia. This will allow to coordinate the works in all areas of development. But it should be emphasized, that such developments must be economically justified. It is necessary to invest in development of a series production of the equipment. Explain why: first of all, series production means demand for the products, and secondly, only in such conditions it is possible to bring systems to a high degree of reliability and quality. An important aspect of the development of new equipment should be close cooperation between developers of machines and manufacturers of electronic components as in the R&D, and at the stage of long-term testing of prototypes.
Does the Russian electronic engineering necessary scientific and technical potential for the elimination of the lag from the world leaders?
Russia has sufficient scientific and technical groundwork to successfully perform the task. However, I am convinced that we need not pursue for world leaders, we must seek their own solutions to problems.
Historically, in Russia several leading technology schools in the direction of the molecular beam epitaxy were created. First of all, it should be noted potential of Ioffe Physical Technical Institute of RAS, Rzhanov Institute of Semiconductor Physics of Siberian Branch of RAS and Academic University of Physics and Technology. Also serious technical groundwork was created by Svetlana-Rost JSC and Institute of Microwave Semiconductor Electronics of RAS. Good results in the area of microwave nitrides on the equipment of SemiTEq JSC demonstrates Kurchatov Center for Synchrotron Radiation and Nanotechnology (Kurchatov Institute). In the direction of organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy one of the recognized leaders in Russia is Elma-Malachit JSC. But the largest cluster of organizations, specializing in the epitaxial growth of heterostructures A3B5 and А3N, historically formed in St. Petersburg, where a high concentration of educational, scientific and production organizations provides the necessary capacity for new developments.
In the area of the equipment for planar processes there is sufficient scientific and technical groundwork in Russia. For example, they have companies of Zelenograd cluster – Research Institute of Precision Machine Manufacturing and ESTO-Vacuum. Our company also produces a wide range of ultrahigh-vacuum process equipment. In particular, the serial production of equipment for electron-beam and magnetron sputtering, thermal processing of wafers and plasma-chemical deposition/etching. All these systems are focused on research and pilot production.
Of course, the most important part of structures creation in the manufacture of electronic components is lithography (contact, projection, laser). However, historically, groundwork in this direction in the framework of the former USSR was formed, primarily in Belarus. He is largely saved and successfully developed, in particular, by the Planar LLC. In recent years, an additional impetus for the developments of Belarusian colleagues was the implementation of several programs of the Union state of Russia and Belarus. A number of programs for development of new types of the lithographic equipment is now considered. They will help to solve the problem of import substitution in this direction.
What should the government take to develop electronic engineering?
In the conditions of increasing external risks, the implementation of the program of strategic development of electronic industry requires development of a comprehensive system of state support of electronic engineering, as well as regulation of the import of a special process equipment. Without these measures, Russia may be unable to produce critical types of modern electronic components, channels of import of which are either absent or can be blocked at any time. An important aspect of the development of domestic production of the equipment must be the focus on the standardization of technical and technological solutions to ensure in the future a single process space for developers and manufacturers of electronic components. In many respects contrary to the processes happening in the last 20-25 years, in Russia continues to maintain and develop competences in area of production of critical types of the special process equipment, providing a necessary groundwork for further progress.
What are the opportunities of SemiTEq in the implementation of the policy of import substitution?
For 13 years SemiTEq develops and manufactures vacuum equipment for the semiconductor industry. The equipment developed by the leading industry experts who are not only familiar with the technology, but really appreciate the peculiarities of the Russian market and of solved tasks. Thanks to it we understand the current needs of consumers. Our company has become a kind of equipment engineering center, before this term acquired its present popularity in Russia. For example, in 2010 we one of the first in Russia opened Applied laboratory for testing of technological processes and development of technological routes on the equipment manufactured by us.
One of the most developed directions in the company, as I have already mentioned, is the production of molecular beam epitaxy systems for III-nitrides. Unique features of this equipment for growing of heterostructures for microelectronics were demonstrated not only in Russia but also in the framework of the project in India in 2011. The results obtained by Indian colleagues on our molecular beam epitaxy system STE3N3 are at the highest world level.
We almost annually update our product line. In 2013 the company presented a research installation of molecular beam epitaxy STE75, designed for a wide range of tasks and development of various systems of materials. This system on all their characteristics competes with the best world analogues – ultra-compact systems Riber and Veeco. This year the installation of this type installed in the University of Toronto (Canada), which confirms its competitiveness in the global market.
In early 2014, the company has introduced a new series of plasma-chemical systems STE ICP for a wide range of technological tasks of etching of semiconductors and dielectrics, as well as for high-quality deposition of dielectric layers. System of a new generation based on a versatile technical platform allow you to implement a wide range of modern technological processes of etching (STE ICP200E) and plasma chemical vapour deposition (STE ICP200D) in inductively coupled plasma on 200 mm wafers. The platform is built on the basis of seamless aluminum hull and equipped with the new gateway device, enabling the installation through the wall of clean rooms.
Novelty in the line of PVD systems is a universal system for magnetron sputtering for various production-oriented processes of classical thin-film technology. STE MS900 became the second system in a STE MS line. It is specifically designed for the magnetron and resistive evaporation on groups of wafers, which is optimal for the solution of process tasks.
Annual releases of new equipment reflect an active policy of our company in developing of own R&D and focused on meeting the ever-increasing demands of customers and partners. Our company has successful experience necessary to participate in projects of import substitution. I am sure, that in Russia there are many businesses, that with good coordination can make a revolution in the domestic electronic engineering and manufacturing of electronic components.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the import substitution in the production of electronic components should not be seen as the development of analogues of specific electronic components. It should be a package of measures to create a technological basis, allowing to design and manufacture electronic components with specified technical and operational features. The solution of this task will be greatly facilitated by the availability of domestic base of technological equipment. If you talk about breakthrough research and progressive developments, their implementation is impossible without competencies in development of the equipment, as the supply of its newest types will always somehow be limited.
In my opinion, the immediate development of the electronics industry is key to solving the problem of transition from a resource based economy to a "knowledge" economy, as well as to ensure comprehensive security of the state. The creation in Russia of a modern infrastructure in the development and production of microelectronic devices and achieving of technological independence in this area is one of the key development objectives of the country, where it is necessary to focus the resources of the state and business.
Thank you for the interesting interview.