SK Materials starts commercial production of etching gas

South Korea`s SK Materials has commenced commercial production of high-purity etching gas for advanced semiconductor manufacturing, a move that is expected to help Korean semiconductor makers to significantly reduce reliance on imported products from Japan.

On Wednesday, the company announced the start of commercial production of gaseous high-purity hydrogen fluoride (HF) from a 15-ton capacity line at its Yeongju plant in Gyeongbuk Province after successful prototyping late last month. The company’s initial goal is to ramp up domestic supply of HF to 70 percent by 2023.

The company’s latest milestone comes about a year after Japan began to curb exports of HF and two other key materials for semiconductor and display production in Korea.

SK Materials is also active in its own supply of high value photoresist chemistries to the local semiconductor industry. Its latest target for development is spin-on-carbon (SOC) hardmask and argon fluoride (ArF) photoresist, both of which are important in wafer fine patterning. Korean semiconductor makers depend on foreign suppliers for nearly 90 percent of ArF photoresist they need for chip patterning.

SK Materials aims to complete the construction of a production line for these photoresist chemicals by 2021 and begin production from 2022 with an initial capacity of 50,000 gallons for a year.

SK Siltron, another affiliate under SK, recently completed the acquisition of DuPont’s silicon carbide (SiC) wafer unit to beef up its presence in the advanced material sector. Demand for SiC wafers, key components in making power chips, has been on the rise with an increase in sales of electric vehicles and 5G adoption.

SK, whose affiliate is SK Hynix, the world’s second largest memory chip maker, is enhancing collaboration with local suppliers in the semiconductor sector. SK Hynix has raised a $330 million fund for financial support to its suppliers. SK material developers also plan to share with small suppliers their expertise necessary for the process of purifying value added high-purity gas. SK Materials created an integrated analysis lab late last year to provide technology analysis services to SMEs in cooperation with Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) and other research institutes.


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