ALD is used today in high-volume manufacturing for mainstream memories applications. However, attracted by their healthy growth and the benefits it can bring over alternative deposition technologies, it has found significant interest in the field of More-than-Moore devices.
Indeed, markets such as power electronics, RF GaN, MEMS or even photonics are now driving the More-than-Moore ALD equipment market: for example, the power semiconductor devices market segment, showing an healthy growth for several years now, reached a US$17.5 billion in 2018 (Status of the Power Electronics Industry, Yole Développement). Same for the overall GaN RF market that is expected to reach US$2 billion by 2024 (RF GaN Market: Applications, Players, Technology and Substrates 2019, Yole Développement). There is no doubt this promising method found it playground !
After the recent announcement of the Beneq TransformTM, Amandine Pizzagalli, Technology and Market Analyst, Semiconductor Manufacturing at Yole, had the opportunity to interview Dr. Mikko Söderlund, Sales Director of Beneq. He shared interesting insights about the company’s vision of ALD market and this promising method. Here is a summary of their discussion
Amandine Pizzagalli: Can you briefly introduce Beneq, its history and current activity?
Dr. Mikko Söderlund: Beneq is the home of ALD, offering a wide portfolio of equipment products and services. Today Beneq is a key market leader with innovative solutions for versatile volume manufacturing (BENEQ Transform™), advanced R&D (TFS 200, R2), roll-to-roll thin-film coating of continuous webs (WCS 600), and specialized batch production for thicker film stacks (P400, P800). Headquartered in Espoo, Finland, Beneq is dedicated to making ALD technology available for the semiconductor industry and providing the invisible advantage in emerging device applications.
AP: Can you explain Beneq’s involvement in the ALD market for More-than-Moore devices?
MS: Beneq is a leading supplier of ALD production equipment and services to the More-than-Moore markets. Our focus is within MEMS (RF, actuators), power (Si & WBG), CIS, RF, advanced packaging, and photonics applications. We offer solutions covering front-end applications like surface passivation, wafer-level encapsulation, nucleation layers, and gate dielectric deposition, as well as back-end solutions e.g. for chip scale, package, or module-level encapsulation. We also support our customers in demo/exploration and coating services through our ALD factory in Finland. We offer compelling service support solutions to assist our production customers.
AP: Can you describe Beneq’s new product portfolio in ALD deposition for More-than-Moore, and the roadmap?
MS: The MEMS and Imaging Sensors Summit in Grenoble September 25 – 26 will serve as the official launch of the BENEQ Transform™, a versatile automated ALD platform for More-than-Moore device fabrication. The product’s brand-new cluster design offers customers unparalleled flexibility by combining both thermal and plasma ALD with single-wafer and batch processing, on a single platform. Fully compliant with SEMI quality standards, the BENEQ Transform™ is a one-stop ALD solution for power electronics, MEMS & sensors, RF, LED, photonics, and advanced packaging applications. The BENEQ Transform™ produces a wide range of oxides including Al2O3, HfO2, Ta2O5, TiO2, and SiO2, and nitrides such as AIN and TiN. The BENEQ Transform™ also features a proprietary preheating module that eliminates hours of waiting time and boosts throughput to a whole new level (15 wph @50 nm Al2O3, for a single thermal batch module). Throughput can be further increased by adding up to two more process modules, either thermal or plasma. What further sets the Transform™ ahead of other tools is its ability to scale-up throughput and maintain the same or better performance regardless of temperature, e.g. >400°C. The BENEQ Transform™ supports wafer sizes from 3 – 8 inches. It is in full production, and available to customers. Find out more from www.beneq.com/transform
AP: What is/are the main market(s) or More-than-Moore segment(s) driving Beneq’s revenue? What is Beneq’s status in More-than-Moore devices, and what changes do you expect in the future?
MS: Within the More-than-Moore markets, CIS and MEMS (actuators & sensors, RF), along with LED, were early adopters of ALD. We also see ALD being introduced in GaN for power and RF, as well as photonics, providing a good base for further expansion of ALD applications in More-than-Moore.
AP: Can you tell us what type of process steps and market segments/applications are supported by your ALD product? At which level is ALD applied in the More-than-Moore space?
MS: ALD coatings can be applied on wafer, die, module, and even PCB level, courtesy of the wide ALD process temperature range from 50 C – 450 C for many of the functional layers. Most common applications call for critical high-performance dielectrics such as high-k, nucleation, passivation, barrier, or encapsulation layers to be applied at wafer level between 200 – 350 C processing temperatures.
AP: Which application or process step do you believe holds high interest for further ALD equipment needs and investment?
MS: Among the hundreds of application requests brought to us by customers today, I would say we are most excited about GaN devices for RF and power applications, as well as photonics, both III-V and silicon.
AP: What are the main More-than-Moore applications and process steps that will drive the ALD equipment market’s future growth?
MS: In terms of market growth, power devices will be the primary driver for the More-than-Moore ALD equipment market. This is expected to come with multiple inflections in front-end applications, mostly around gate dielectrics. Wide band-gap power devices came first with GaN, and SiC is set to follow, while even larger volumes will be driven by advanced Si MOSFETs. Inflections in RF and photonics are other significant areas for the ALD equipment market’s upcoming growth in More-than-Moore.
AP: What are the required technical specifications with respect to ALD deposition?
MS: It’s critical to control the material properties of the deposited layer (e.g. electronic breakdown, charge density, resistivity, and barrier property), and of course, film uniformity and conformity. Furthermore, controlling the material interfaces is often critical, especially for sensitive III-V materials. The BENEQ Transform is a unique platform for bringing all the aspects of successful ALD deposition together in an integrated, ultra-clean volume manufacturing solution.
AP: Is there a technology point where ALD technology could be used instead of alternative solutions for some More-than-Moore applications? Can you share examples?
MS: ALD provides differentiation in device performance, be it enhanced electrical performance or extending the device lifetime. To give a few examples, GaN MISHEMT devices will rely on ALD gate dielectrics, courtesy of the gentle, damage-free process, and the high precision and quality of the high-k gate dielectric layer. Another example is conformal and pinhole-free ALD wafer-level encapsulation, which is replacing SiN across multiple More-than-Moore device categories. And there are additional examples to share, such as BSI CIS passivation.
AP: What challenge(s) do you perceive as related to the use of ALD equipment in the More-than-Moore field?
MS: One challenge in the More-than-Moore space is how to address the breath of substrate materials, wafers sizes, and applications that call for a wide range of functional films. Today’s ALD manufacturing tools are largely geared towards 300 mm thermal or PEALD processes, with dedicated equipment for each. This creates the need for a versatile tool that supports multiple deposition capabilities.
AP: What are the competitive advantages of your ALD products for More-than-Moore Devices?
MS: The BENEQ Transform cluster tool offers customers unparalleled versatility by combining both thermal and plasma ALD with single-wafer and batch processing, on one fully automated platform. The tool features a proprietary preheating module that eliminates hours of waiting time and boosts throughput to a whole new level (15 wph @50 nm Al2O3, in thermal mode). Throughput can be further increased by adding up to two more process modules, thermal or plasma. What further sets the Transform™ apart from other tools is its ability to scale-up throughput and maintain the same uniformity regardless of the temperature, e.g. >400 °C.
AP: How do you foresee the evolution of the ALD equipment market’s industrial landscape for More-than-Moore devices in the coming years?
MS: The BENEQ Transform was engineered in response to our customers’ requests to realize a truly versatile ALD cluster platform for supporting More-than-Moore device R&D and manufacturing. With this tool, we are addressing an important and overlooked space between R&D ALD tools and HVM ALD platforms for advanced memory and logic, where customers seek to do volume manufacturing whilst having additional wafer-size flexibility in order to tailor their ALD films for their specific devices.
AP: What do you see as the next applications driving the ALD equipment market?
MS: Again we see power devices, as well as a new generation of RF and photonics technologies, being the main drivers and complementing current market segments for ALD equipment.
AP: Anything you would like to add for our readers?
MS: It is time for a change, with high-throughput and versatile ALD capabilities for the semiconductor industry in More-than-Moore.
Dr. Mikko Söderlund is the Sales Director for Beneq’s semiconductor business. He has more than 20 years of experience in product development, product management, technical sales, and business development across the photonics, OLED, and semiconductor industries. Dr. Söderlund received his PhD in Micro- and Nanotechnology from the Helsinki University of Technology.
Amandine Pizzagalli is a Technology & Market Analyst, Equipment & Materials – Semiconductor Manufacturing, at Yole Développement (Yole). Amandine is part of the development of the Semiconductor & Software division of Yole with the production of reports and custom consulting projects. She is in charge of comprehensive analyses focused on semiconductor equipment, materials and manufacturing processes. Previously, Amandine worked as Process engineer on CVD and ALD processes for semiconductor applications at Air Liquide. Amandine was based in Japan during one year to manage these projects. Amandine graduated from the engineering school, CPE Lyon (France), with a technical expertise in Semiconductor & Nano-Electronics and holds an electronics engineering degree followed by a master’s in semiconductor manufacturing technology from KTH Royal institute of technology (Sweden). She has spoken in numerous international conferences and has authored or coauthored more than 10 papers.
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