Tokyo Electron is expected to install the demo version of its new hybrid oxide etcher at a place designated by Samsung Electronics’ chip research group, Semiconductor Research & Development, TheElec has learned.
The fab equipment maker’s new product is called hybrid because it uses the traditional RF generator as well as a DC pulse generator as energy sources.
For plasma to be formed within the chamber of etchers, energy is injected into gas to ionize them.
The ion and radical produced during this process are used for the etching process itself, where micro patterns of the wafers are formed.
Previous etchers only used RF power. But as the oxide etching process evolved to require narrow and deep penetration of the insulating layers on the wafers, demand for increased power output also increased.
However, the increase in power output can also cause arcing during etching. Increasing the output of the RF generator could also cause the equipment to be larger than optimal.
Currently, Lam Research’s etching equipment accounts for over 60% of those used by Samsung’s chip division.
Lam Research has leaned towards increasing the output of the RF generator on its etcher while reducing possible arcing.
However, Tokyo Electron uses RF for deep etching while for finer etching work it uses DC pulse __ the Japanese fab equipment maker is the first to take such an approach. The company also adopted new metal in the etching gas.
Samsung in recent years sent its test wafers to Tokyo Electron’s headquarters to verify the equipment.
The praises from at-location Samsung engineers for the equipment was overwhelmingly positive, sources said. The etching was done fast and the pattern shape was also finely done, they said.
If such positive reception from Samsung continues after the demo equipment is installed, it could challenge Lam Research’s position as the major supplier of etchers to the South Korean tech giant.
Samsung is planning to use Tokyo Electron’s new equipment, if it passes its final tests, in its 3D NAND production. The equipment will be used in the production step where the channel hole will be drilled.
Samsung is currently mass-producing its latest 3D NAND, V8. V9 is being prepared by its chip research group at the current time. The tech giant is aiming to use Tokyo Electron’s equipment at V10, which will likely start being produced in 2025. Tokyo Electron is aware of this timeline and is aiming to roll out its hybrid etcher in a timely fashion as well, sources said.
Meanwhile, South Korean fab equipment maker APTC is also developing a hybrid etcher that is similar to those of Tokyo Electron. APTC’s main customer is SK Hynix and the fab equipment maker has registered multiple related patents.