The Materials Gap


When consolidation thinned the ranks of semiconductor foundries and equipment makers, materials companies figured things were about to get better. They haven't. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, semiconductors are now so complex and difficult to develop that a slew of innovations are required on all sides. Everyone is familiar with transistor structures, interconnects and lithog... » read more

5 Takeaways From SEMI’s SMC


At the recent Strategic Materials Conference (SMC), there were a multitude of presentations on a number of subjects. The event, sponsored by SEMI, had presentations on the IC industry, market drivers, electronic materials and other subjects. In no particular order, here are my five takeaways from SMC: Materials M&A mania Last year, the IC industry experienced a dizzying array of merger ... » read more

Terminology Beyond von Neumann


Neural networks. Neuromorphic computing. Non-von Neumann architectures. As I’ve been researching my series on neuromorphic computing, I’ve encountered a lot of new terminology. It hasn’t always been easy to figure out exactly what’s being discussed. This explainer attempts to both clarify the terms used in my own articles and to help others sort through the rapidly growing literature in... » read more

Fab Equipment Spending Sets New Record


Fab equipment spending (new and refurbished) is expected to increase by 37% for 2017, reaching a new annual spending record of about $55 billion. The World Fab Forecast also forecasts that in 2018, fab equipment spending will increase even more, another 5%, for a record high of about $58 billion. The last record spending was in 2011 with about $40 billion. The spending in 2017 is now expected t... » read more

Using Advanced Statistical Analysis To Improve FinFET Transistor Performance


Trial and error wafer fabrication is commonly used to study the effect of process changes in the development of FinFET and other advanced semiconductor technologies. Due to the interaction of upstream unit process parameters (such as deposition conformality, etch anisotropy, selectivity) during actual fabrication, variations based upon process changes can be highly complex. Process simulators t... » read more

Big Push For 3D Sensing With iPhone X


3D sensing is a buzzword that has been thrown around quite a bit this year in connection with the rumors surrounding the tenth-anniversary iPhone. Although the iPhone X will be the first large-scale consumer push for 3D sensing, the technology has been around for years, particularly in industrial applications such as machine vision. 3D sensing is already used in the PC – think Intel’s RealS... » read more

Getting Ready For EUV


The highly anticipated introduction of extreme ultra-violet (EUV) lithography is reflected in recent surveys conducted by the eBeam Initiative, which will be presented on Sept. 11 at the annual Photomask Technology Symposium in Monterey, Calif.  There are many changes are coming to the mask industry, in addition to EUV. Those include greater use of inverse-lithography technologies (ILT) and... » read more

Machine Learning In The Fab


Machine learning is exploding, especially where there are massive amounts of data to contend with and lots of potential interactions. This leads to two obvious insertion points in the semiconductor field. One is on the design side, where just getting an advanced design to function is an enormous challenge. That challenge increases as the need for reliability in some market increases. It's d... » read more

Silicon Wafers: M&A, Price Hikes


Chipmakers need to keep a close eye on the silicon wafer industry, as the business continues to undergo a number of changes. On one front, the silicon wafer industry continues to consolidate. Then, after years of suffering from an oversupply and falling prices, many silicon wafer vendors are experiencing tight supply and have begun to raise prices. Silicon wafers are a fundamental part of... » read more

Ruthenium Liners Give Way To Ruthenium Lines


For several years now, integrated circuit manufacturers have been investigating alternative barrier layer materials for copper interconnects. As interconnect dimensions shrink, the barrier accounts for an increasing fraction of the total line volume. As previously reported, both cobalt and ruthenium have drawn substantial interest because they can serve as both barrier and seed layers, minimizi... » read more

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