Jean Chu, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES [Friday 8 December 2017]|
China has taken a big stride forward in the localization of semiconductor equipment needed to support domestic chip production, as some major equipment makers have achieved technological breakthroughs and successfully developed key equipment such as vertical oxidation furnaces and chemical-mechanical polishing equipment, according to industry sources.
The sources said that Beijing-based Naura Technology Group has recently installed a set of vertical oxidation furnace,THEORISO302, developed by its wholly-owned subsidiary North Microelectronics, at the 3D NAND flash chips production line of Yantze Memory Technologies (YMTC) under the Tsinghua Unigroup.
The THEORISO302 furnaces have also been adopted on the production lines of Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) and Shanghai Huali Microelectronics, with the equipment's processing applications covering logic, DRAM and NAND chips, the sources said.
So far, Naura Technology has successfully tapped into the mainstream semiconductor production lines in China with a spate of equipment including etching machines, PVD (physical vapor deposition), vertical oxidation furnaces, cleaning machines, LPVCD (low pressure chemical vapor deposition) and gas quality and flow controllers, among others. The company expects to have 40 more products verify by first-tier customers in China in 2018.
Meanwhile, another China maker CETC Electronics Equipment Group has come out with its newly developed 8-inch chemical-mechanical polishing (CMP) equipment that can perform polishing, cleaning and wafer transmission functions and is designed based on international standards to meet a variety of processing requirements for different semiconductor materials such as silicon, copper, tungsten, aluminum, oxide, nitride, tantalum, and polymer.
The 8-inch CMP equipment is pending accreditation by SMIC's 8-inch wafer fab in Tianjian, marking the first time that China-made CMP equipment will enter the IC volume production line, industry sources said.
On another front, China-based semiconductor equipment makers are facing challenges from international competitors with regard to patent issues. For instance, US-based MOCVD (metal-organic chemical vapor deposition) equipment supplier Veeco Instruments has filed a request with a local court in New York asking it to issue an injunction against sales of graphite plates designed and manufactured by Germany-based SGL Carbon Group to China's Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment (AMEC) for production of MOCVD equipment, alleging that SGL Garbon infringe Veeco's patented technology.
Veeco also petitioned to China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPC) to declare AMEC's patented MOCVD-used graphite plate invalid, but the petition was vetoed by the SIPC.