Innovations in the field of deposition, etching, stripping, photomask etching, dicing and other areas.
Since 1974, Plasma-Therm (USA) has been developing plasma processing technologies for semiconductor wafers. Plasma-Therm innovations in the field of deposition, etching, stripping, photomask etching, dicing and other areas are protected by more than 40 patents. The company actively cooperates with other market participants, and develops a range of solutions both by implementing its own developments, and by acquiring promising technologies. In Russia, Plasma-Therm equipment is represented by ZENCO PLASMA. At the SEMICON Europa 2017, Thierry Lazerand, Director of Marketing, explained the innovations of the American company.
What challenges does Plasma-Therm face in the current market environment? In general, the challenges are typical for manufacturers and suppliers of process equipment: we need to concentrate our efforts on promising market segments, offering products that best meet the needs of customers. The key factor here is good communication with equipment users to understand how their requirements change, what the market needs in the short, mid and longer terms, and to take these trends into account when developing new products or applications. As for the areas of development of our company in the face of these challenges, I want to emphasize that the basis for growth invariably remains competence in the field of plasma-processing. Expansion of the product portfolio, development of new processes, access to new market segments, new applications or technologies – all this is based on our know-how and innovations in the field of plasma technologies. At the same time, firstly, we are a very dynamic, flexible company that can easily adapt to current requirements, and secondly, an unchanging priority for us is to provide high quality support to our customers regardless of the scale of the project.
Which Plasma-Therm solutions deserve special attention? We offer several platforms for various tasks and applications. The first group of solutions is designed for deposition and etching of thin films. Here you can note the Apex SLR and Vision systems, focused on R&D market. They are characterized by small footprint, relatively low cost and extremely high flexibility of process settings. It should be noted that in our equipment for R&D the same plasma sources and plasma solutions are used as in industrial systems. The most popular Plasma-Therm platform with the largest number of installations is the VERSALINE industrial modular system for the plasma deposition and plasma etching. It allows the processing of films of a wide range of materials, including oxides, nitrides, oxynitrides, diamond-like carbon, and others. Configurations are available for both conventional plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) and high density plasma chemical vapor deposition (HDP CVD), which allows operation at lower temperatures and obtaining more uniform and qualitative films, including on non-planar structural elements. VERSALINE etching systems provide the ability to work with all materials that are amenable to plasma processing, and are used in the production of power electronics, advanced packaging, MEMS, LEDs, wireless and optical devices. Configurations are available for etching in an inductively coupled plasma (ICP), reactive ion etching (RIE) and deep silicon etching (DSE). In the field of deep silicon etch, we have protected by patents a number of technologies that provide high selectivity, profile control, the qualitative formation of elements with a high aspect ratio and the smoothness of the side walls of structures. Wafers can be loaded into VERSALINE machines manually, via loadlock or automatically from cassettes. Cluster systems combine up to six process chambers. In 2015, we acquired from the Nanoplas France company the HDRF (High Density Radicals Flux) stripping technology, which allows to remove residue both at high (up to 250 °C) and at low (less than 150 °C) temperatures. Currently, this technology is implemented in the Odyssey HDRF system. This equipment can be used for efficient stripping and cleaning of structures formed on the wafer, including those containing materials with low thermal resistance, for example, gallium nitride films that are susceptible to warpage. A new plasma dicing technology is implemented in the Singulator system. Its use, firstly, allows us to increase the useful area of the wafer by reducing the street sizes to less than 10 μm; secondly, it eliminates the chips damages that occur during mechanical and laser processing; third, it makes it possible to combine on same wafer devices of different sizes and shapes. Another interesting platform is Mask Etcher for dry etching of photomasks. The use of etching in an inductively coupled plasma ensures the formation of elements up to 12 nm in size, producing masks for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. During etching, high purity is maintained in the chamber, eliminating contamination of the photomask. Finally, I would like to note the new Pinnacle platform for ion beam etch and deposition (IBE/IBD), which we develop after the acquiring of Nano Etch Systems. This technology allows very precise control of the profile of the elements being formed, and we believe that it has a very good future especially with the rise of interest in magnetic films. In what cases the plasma dicing can be used? The recurrent motivations for customers to consider adoption of plasma dicing are cost saving generated by implementation of narrows streets helping to add many more die per wafer, die strength and finished diced die quality achieved by the nature of the plasma etching compared to mechanical cutting with saw and heat generate damages from laser solutions. Plasma dicing opens up new opportunities in many areas. For example, it is possible to create devices of a round shape that can be used in medicine, or effectively handle ultra-thin wafers. Theoretically, any materials in the dicing lanes which are suitable for plasma etching can be considered. The plasma dicing of silicon wafers has already been well developed, although the costs of integrating new technology, including the need for coordination between developers and manufacturers of semiconductor devices, should be taken into account when solving specific problems. Plasma etching of metals is not yet possible, but we are working on various techniques to address this problem such as laser ablation technology provided by our partner, DISCO. When etching GaAs wafers, problems arise due to the use of chlorine plasma, which must be completely removed from the surface of the chips to avoid corrosion. How successful is cooperation with DISCO in the field of plasma dicing? To effectively promote the new dicing technology, we needed a strong partner with a well-developed sales and service structure that specializes in this segment of the market. Cooperation with DISCO was the best solution, since it helps to improve our technology, using the experience of the world leader in the field of dicing, grinding and thinning systems. For our Japanese partner, cooperation with Plasma-Therm is beneficial, as it allows them to offer customers a complete range of dicing solutions, including mechanical, laser and plasma systems. At the moment, nine plasma dicing machines have been sold, which could be perceived as a modest result, but it should be borne in mind that the technology is still in the stage of adaptation to market requirements. What are the main areas of new developments? First, optimization of etching modes of thin layers of gallium nitride is being carried out. Secondly, the atomic layer etching (ALE), which allows to remove layers and their elements of atomic thickness with high selectivity, is of great interest. Thirdly, an important task is to increase the rate of deep silicon etch, which will ensure a reduction in costs, in particular, in the production of MEMS. And, finally, we are constantly working to improve the reliability and stability of processes and the equipment for large volume production. How is the collaboration with ZENCO PLASMA on the supply of equipment in the Russian market conducted? In the Russian market, the most demanded plasma etching and deposition systems are Vision, Apex and VERSALINE. Engineers and specialists of our partner in Russia carry out a full cycle of work to solve the customer’s problems: the coordination of technical and technological conditions and the requirements of the customer, the selection of appropriate equipment model and configuration, the organization of laboratory tests at a manufacturing plant in the United States, providing the customer with a report on the results achieved, coordination of requirements to the engineering infrastructure for the successful launch and operation of equipment, with the execution of project work, if necessary, in particular to change the existing infrastructure or create it from scratch in accordance with the requirements and norms of technical regulations of the Russian Federation. For example, it is possible to design and to supply gas supply and gas treatment systems, emission control systems, vacuum lines, climatic systems, clean rooms. ZENCO PLASMA carries out the acceptance of equipment in a factory in the US or Sweden, with possible participation of end-user representatives, after which it organizes the delivery to Russia and the customs clearance of the equipment that has passed the acceptance. Then ZENCO PLASMA’s specialists carry out a full range of works on installation, connection and testing of equipment for compliance with technological and technical requirements. In case the equipment is supplied with non-standard processes, it is possible to involve our technologist. After commissioning the equipment, warranty service and user support are provided. During the joint work, ZENCO PLAZMA has established itself as a reliable and qualified partner, which allows us to confidently offer our sophisticated high-tech equipment to Russian customers. Interview: Dmitry Gudilin