The Great Skills Race


The next phase of the technology race will be fought with qualified people—but not necessarily the same people in the same markets or with the same skill sets. For the past half century, technology wars have been won and lost with inexpensive labor and increasing amounts of automation. This can be traced from the United States in the 1960s to Japan in the 1970s, Korea starting in the mid-... » read more

Exploring New Scaling Approaches


At the recent SPIE Photomask Technology + Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography 2017 conference, Semiconductor Engineering sat down to discuss semiconductor technology with Tsu-Jae King Liu, the TSMC Distinguished Professor in Microelectronics in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley. More specifically, Liu discussed some of the new... » read more

Improving Optical Overlay And Measurement


By Adam Ge and Shimon Levi Patterning challenges for the semiconductor industry are growing as the number of multi-patterned layers being used in the 10nm and beyond nodes increase. Patterning requires highly accurate overlay which has always been an issue, but with the added complexities of multi-patterning, smaller dimensions and subsequent tightening overlay error budget, it is now a majo... » read more

What’s Up With MEMS?


New sensor technologies, and smarter ways of integrating more intelligence, continue to generate unexpected opportunities in the changing MEMS business. Changes needed for sensors for context awareness If digital assistants are ever going to be really useful, they’ll need some particular sensor capabilities to understand emotion, suggests Lama Nachman, head of Intel’s Anticipatory Compu... » read more

Controlling Uniformity At The Edge


Chipmakers want every part of the wafer to produce, or yield, good die. Advances in process technologies over the years have just about made this a reality, even as feature dimensions continue to shrink and devices grow ever more complex. Now, the last frontier is improving yields at the edge of the wafer – the outer 10 mm or so – where chemical, physical, and even thermal discontinuitie... » read more

Reducing BEOL Parasitic Capacitance Using Air Gaps


Reducing back-end-of-line (BEOL) interconnect parasitic capacitance remains a focus for advanced technology node development. Porous low-k dielectric materials have been used to achieve reduced capacitance, however, these materials remain fragile and prone to reliability concerns. More recently, air gap has been successfully incorporated into 14nm technology [1], and numerous schemes have b... » read more

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

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