Cleanrooms for next-gen semiconductor fabrication

Exyte’s Michael Rodd and Herbert Blaschitz explain why nanotechnology, autonomous driving and ever-shrinking electric devices require hi-tech companies to create leaner, more efficient and sustainable production environments

Demand for semiconductors is increasingly being driven by their diversification into markets and applications. An analysis conducted by the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) confirmed that semiconductors are being deployed across a broader market spectrum and that this trend has resulted in semiconductor sales growing faster than device sales.

Today’s developments in the semiconductor marketplace raise the bar for fabrication efficiency, and companies are looking to create leaner, more efficient and sustainable production environments.

With its state-of-the-art portfolio, Exyte Technology, the global provider of semiconductor infrastructure, demonstrates the importance of high-precision cleanroom and environmental control technologies for successful semiconductor fabrication as well as sectors requiring similar solutions, including nanotechnology, micromechanics, optical engineering, standards and quality assurance, and R&D institutes.

Market overview

According to the semiconductor market research specialist, VLSI Research, global semiconductor sales are forecast to reach US$434 billion in 2019. Key drivers are Big Data, which spans trends such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), and strong demand for storage devices such as memory chips.

Breaking this out into individual sectors, ZVEI expects the number of semiconductors in devices, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and TVs, to stagnate over the coming years.

By contrast, megatrends in the automotive industry are accelerating the deployment of semiconductors. ZVEI identifies the key trends as connectivity (the installation of premium infotainment systems in vehicles), autonomous driving and the growing popularity of Driver Assistance System, and, last but not least, the overall sophistication of electrical systems and increased production of electric vehicles.

The market’s dynamic is also driven by leading semiconductor companies setting the development agenda with their ever-shrinking design structures, according to “Moore’s Law”: the perception that speed and capability of our computers increase every couple of years, and consumers will pay less for them.

Michael Rodd
Managing Director – Sales Exyte Technology

Fabrication efficiency in the spotlight

“Today, you will find the same high standards in semiconductor fabrication as you will in nanotechnology and optical storage media environments,” says Michael Rodd, Sales Director at Exyte Technology in Renningen/Germany. “Extremely precise processes and controlled environments are essential to produce ultra-small surface structures and ensure consistent reproducibility of the process and measurement results,” he adds.

These high standards place special and stringent demands on the building technology, systems engineering, process design and production environments. For example, building technology must be perfectly aligned with the sophisticated cleanroom technology and environmental control systems installed in production equipment. This includes the secure supply and disposal of process-critical utilities such as ultra-pure water, gases and refrigerants.

In systems engineering, hi-tech production equipment operates to extreme levels of precision, also providing in-situ documentation and data for continuous quality assurance requirements within the overall process.

Stable operating environment

Ultra-precise control of high stability temperature and humidity values in numerous processing and measurement equipment is a key success factor for manufacturing integrated circuits with geometries in the sub-10 nanometre range on silicon wafers.

Environmental control is particularly vital during the manufacturing and transportation of the wafers. It is critical to maintaining the required levels of air purity with respect to potential particles and gaseous contaminants as well as mitigating the potential influence of acoustic, electrostatic and magnetic fields.

The competencies of Exyte in these technologies, combined with deep knowledge and experience of precision temperature control, help to achieve perfect process environments for maximising product yield.

Precisely controlled process environments

Exyte is the main supplier for the world’s twenty leading semiconductor manufacturers. As a contractor, the company manages the full project life cycle of semiconductor fabs, from planning through tool installation to process implementation and commissioning.

Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corporation (HLMC) named Exyte as Excellent Supplier of the Year in 2019. The company delivered HLMC a new 300mm wafer fab manufacturing facility in Shanghai, China

Another important factor in quality assurance is ongoing facility management and continuous improvement of operations. Consulting services provided during operations ensure that semiconductor clients are informed about the latest developments in cleanroom technologies and cutting-edge ultrapure environmental monitoring concepts.

Herbert Blaschitz, President at Exyte for the Global Business Unit Advanced Technology Facilities (ATF), explains: “With our smart fab concept, we have set the pace for the next generation of wafer fab designs, tailored to the ambitious technology roadmaps and the exact asset efficiency goals of our customers.” For Blaschitz, transparent, real-time information optimises the system sustainability and increases energy efficiency throughout the fab’s entire life cycle.

Precision climate-control systems

Building on more than 100 years of experience in environmental control solutions and over 50 years of expertise in cleanroom technology, Exyte provides fully customised solutions and applications according to clients’ specific process and manufacturing requirements.

High-precision climate-control systems are an effective means to control semiconductor wafer fabrication environments

The portfolio of products comprises a wide variety of solutions, including high precision climate-control systems, filter fans units, ambient air conditioning units, precise Modular Environmental Chambers (MECs) and components for monitoring air quality.

High-precision climate-control systems are an effective means to control semiconductor wafer fabrication environments. This equipment can be individually configured and, due to its versatility, can be flexibly deployed in wafer fabs or research centres.

One of Exyte’s precision climate-control solutions has been specially designed for the most demanding temperature requirements, such a field of application. This optimised solution supports ultra-precise temperature, humidity and flow controls. This footprint ensures full alignment with the demands of highly sensitive production processes such as those required for microchips.

Temperature control for liquid media

Blaschitz points out that Exyte collaborates closely with customers to develop solutions that meet the most stringent requirements for temperature stability, flow control and purity. In semiconductor manufacturing, a major field of application is during wafer exposure by means of immersion lithography. Other applications include thermal conditioning of process cooling water for stabilisation of optics, lenses and other temperature-sensitive equipment.

“Supporting flows of up to 300 l/min, Exyte’s solutions deliver ultra-precise temperature control in the millikelvin range. Where required, encapsulated filters capable of removing 50, 30 or 20 nm particles are incorporated directly upstream of the point of use. These and other solutions have demonstrated excellent results and can also be used for new applications and manufacturing processes,” Blaschitz says.

Exyte's MEC system

Precise environmental chamber

A Modular Environmental Chamber (MEC) is a proven, cost-effective approach to meet the reliability, precision, and configuration needs of scalable production or development environments in the semiconductor industry.

These chambers can be used to effectively monitor and control air temperature and humidity quality to ISO standards, as well as managing acoustic and magnetic interference.

The design of the chambers can be adapted to support individual production engineering requirements and structural conditions to deliver reliability, stability, and reproducibility. Dr Dietmar Malcherek, Technology Manager at Exyte, explains: “With our Modular Environmental Chambers, we consistently achieve high process quality levels by minimising external influences.”

Targeted solutions and holistic systems covering all fabrication, research and development steps are available in the marketplace for the semiconductor and other hi-tech industries. Exyte is well-known in this sector for its highly sophisticated portfolio of proven and scalable solutions that can be customised to individual needs and cleanroom class.

Customisation provides manufacturers with a broad portfolio of potential solutions to ensure reliable, reproducible processes at all manufacturing steps and lay the foundations for seamless quality control along with cost-effective operations and improved process yields.

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