In the semiconductor industry, manufacturing equipment has an extremely important strategic position. The key semiconductor equipment represented by lithography machines is a highly integrated product of modern technology, and its design and manufacturing process can reflect the highest level of many related scientific fields including materials and machining. For example, in terms of materials, the key equipment for semiconductor manufacturing requires that the parts and components have the characteristics of light weight, high strength, high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion coefficient, and are dense, uniform and defect-free.
Among them, precision ceramics are the most representative semiconductor precision component materials
What Are Semiconductor Precision Components?
Semiconductor components refer to components that meet semiconductor equipment and technical requirements in terms of material, structure, process, quality and precision, reliability and stability, such as O-rings, transmission modules, radio frequency power supplies, electrostatic chucks, Silicon/SiC rings, vacuum pumps, gas flow meters, precision bearings, gas shower heads, etc. Semiconductor equipment consists of thousands of components. The performance, quality and precision of components directly determine the reliability and stability of the equipment, and are also the key basic elements for the leap to high-end semiconductor manufacturing capabilities.
According to the main materials and functions of semiconductor parts, they can be divided into twelve categories, including silicon/silicon carbide parts, quartz parts, ceramic parts, metal parts, graphite parts, plastic parts, vacuum parts, sealing parts , filter parts, moving parts, electronic control parts and other parts.
Precision ceramic components have important applications in a series of major semiconductor manufacturing links such as chemical vapor deposition, physical vapor deposition, ion implantation, and etching.
What Precision Parts Can Precision Ceramics Be Made Of?
In high-end lithography machines, in order to achieve high process accuracy, ceramic parts with good functional composite, structural stability, thermal stability, and dimensional accuracy need to be widely used, such as E-chuck, Vacumm-chuck, Block, magnetic Steel skeleton water-cooled plates, mirrors, guide rails, etc. These key components are generally made of ceramic materials.
In the etching equipment, the components made of ceramic materials mainly include window mirrors, gas dispersion discs, nozzles, insulating rings, cover plates, focusing rings and electrostatic chucks. With the reduction of chip feature size and the gradual increase of halogen-based plasma energy, the plasma etching resistance of the etching machine process chamber and the components in the chamber becomes more and more important. Compared with organic and metal materials, ceramic materials generally have good physical and chemical corrosion resistance and high working temperature. Therefore, in the semiconductor industry, a variety of ceramic materials have become the manufacturing process and front-end of semiconductor single crystal silicon wafers. Manufacturing materials for the core components of the equipment in the processing process.
For another example, the ceramic capillary is an indispensable tool in the wire bonding process. The main component of the ceramic capillary of some manufacturers is zirconia reinforced alumina, and its microstructure is uniform and dense, and the density is increased to 4.3g/cm3. The content of tetragonal zirconia and the uniform and dense microstructure promote the excellent mechanical properties of the zirconium-doped ceramic capillary, which reduces the wear and replacement of the ceramic capillary tip during the wire bonding process.
A semiconductor device seems to be made of metal and plastic, but in fact, there are many high-tech precision ceramic components hidden inside. In short, the application of precision ceramics in semiconductor equipment is far more than we think.
Which Ceramic Materials Are The Most Popular?
It is understood that a large number of oxide ceramic precision components will be used in semiconductor equipment.
For example, alumina materials, high-purity Al2O3 coatings or Al2O3 ceramics are used as protective materials for the etching cavity and the internal components of the cavity. In addition to the cavity, alumina ceramics are also used in the gas nozzles of the plasma equipment, the gas distribution plate and the fixing ring for fixing the wafer. In the wafer polishing process, alumina ceramics can be widely used in polishing plates, polishing pad calibration platforms, vacuum suction cups, etc.
In addition, as we said above, zirconia ceramics, as the main manufacturing material of the rivet, is an indispensable tool in the wire bonding process.
Silicon carbide ceramics
Silicon carbide material has extremely high elastic modulus, thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion coefficient, is not easy to produce bending stress deformation and thermal strain, and has excellent polishability, which can be machined to an excellent mirror surface; Silicon has great advantages as a precision structural material for key semiconductor equipment such as lithography machines.
Silicon Nitride Ceramics
As a covalent bond compound, it has low thermal expansion coefficient, high thermal conductivity, excellent chemical resistance and thermal shock resistance. The hot-pressed Si3N4 has extremely high hardness and high temperature resistance. Its strength has been maintained at a high temperature of 1200 °C without decreasing. It will not melt into a molten body after being heated, and will not decompose until 1900 °C. Therefore, silicon nitride ceramics are called “ceramic materials with the best comprehensive properties” and are used in semiconductor equipment to manufacture platforms, guide rails, bearings and other components.
Aluminum Nitride Ceramics
The current electrostatic chuck mainly uses alumina ceramics as the main manufacturing material, and the thermal conductivity and related mechanical properties of alumina materials are not as good as those of aluminum nitride ceramics. Therefore, it will become a trend to use aluminum nitride ceramics instead of alumina ceramics as the manufacturing materials of electrostatic chucks.
Market And Competitive Landscape
Semiconductor Equipment Market
According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), global chip sales in 2021 will reach a record $555.9 billion, an increase of 26.2% from the previous year. The association expects global chip sales to grow 8.8% in 2022 as chipmakers continue to expand capacity to meet demand.
On the equipment side, fab equipment spending is expected to continue growing in 2022, following a 17% year-over-year increase in 2020 and a 39% year-over-year increase in 2021. SEMI (International Semiconductor Industry Association) pointed out that in 2022, global front-end fab equipment (excluding packaging and testing front-end process equipment, generally wafer manufacturing equipment) spending is expected to exceed 98 billion US dollars, reaching a record high, the third consecutive annual growth.
Current global competitive landscape
At present, foreign companies in the forefront of the research and development and application of precision ceramic structures for integrated circuit core equipment include Japan’s , American CoorsTek, Germany’s BERLINERGLAS, etc. Among them, and CoorsTek occupy high-end precision ceramic structures for integrated circuit core equipment. 70% of the market share.
The high-end ceramic parts manufactured by and CoorsTek have the characteristics of complete material system, excellent performance, complex structure and high machining accuracy. The precision ceramic structural parts manufactured almost cover the existing structural ceramic material systems, such as alumina, silicon carbide, nitrogen Silicon, aluminum nitride, etc.; the application field of structural parts also covers almost all the core equipment of integrated circuits, forming a series of precision ceramic structural parts with complete models and varieties. For example, CoorsTek in the United States can provide special components for lithography machines. , special components for plasma etching equipment, special components for PVD/CVD, special components for ion implantation equipment, special components for wafer adsorption, fixed transmission and other products; can provide lithography machines, wafer manufacturing equipment, etching machines, deposition equipment ( CVD, sputtering), LCD and other equipment with precision ceramic structures.