Chip component maker KNJ has become a director vendor of silicon carbide (SiC) focus ring to chipmaker SK Hynix, TheElec has learned.
Prior to being selected as a direct vendor, KNJ was below in the value chain and supplied unfinished SiC rings to SiC ring suppliers of the chipmaker.
SiC rings are used during chip production to fix the wafer in place. SiC rings are sturdier than rings that are made out of quartz or silicon.
This is why it is in high demand in the etching process, which is more frequent in chip production to make advanced chips such as 3D NAND flash.
Tokai Carbon Korea has been the dominant supplier of SiC rings in South Korea with around 80% market share.
It has patents related to the ring and in 2019 filed a patent infringement lawsuit against DS Techno, one of many companies that have begun to enter the SiC ring sector.
Tokai Carbon Korea won the ruling in some of the patents but not all. The lawsuit is awaiting a final verdict from the Supreme Court.
As the company didn’t win completely, this has given an opening for companies such as KNJ to more aggressively expand in the sector.
There is a before market and aftermarket in SiC ring; in the before market, SiC ring is supplied to equipment makers.
In the aftermarket, SiC ring is supplied directly to the chipmaker themselves.