Acquisition sees boom time for semiconductor equipment: Page 2 of 3

July 05, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
Kevin Crofton, SPTS
Three years after acquisition, Welsh semiconductor equipment maker SPTS is seeing growing opportunities in LED, RF, MEMS and power markets. Kevin Crofton talks to Nick Flaherty about how the deal has progressed.

Plasma dicing
Plasma dicing has been a key new area for SPTS

There have also been advantages of sharing technology with Orbotech, from image processing to 3D printing.  

“As Orbotech is a PCB inspection and repair company they have some core competences that might be usable in our space to solve some problems,” he said.

The first of these is using their PCB direct imaging technology for wafer formats.

“We are also using a 3D additive manufacturing process to create underfill dams on a die that needs to be supported,” he said. “With 3D printing we can also put a an isolation layer selectively between the balls on a BGA substrate and both of those solve fundmental problems that our customers have making their devices. Orbotech make the print heads with the UV curing activity – that’s where the real science comes from for device marking and many other areas. Those are big wins from the merger activity.”

Another big move has been to take the existing plasma vapor deposition (PVD) technology in to new areas such as into advanced packaging for fan out wafer packaging. “We are by far the market leader in PVD for fanout wafer level packaging, and we are the process tool of record for PVD at the world’s largest foundry as well as 6 out of the top 7 packaging companies,” said Crofton.

“Now we have also launched a plasma dicing capability for both carried wafers and normal wafer and also no tape frame assemblies,” he said.

This is particularly important for small die for RF and LED makers with thousands of devices in a wafer. Using cleaner plasma cutting can significantly improve the number of devices on a wafer and the yield.

“When you have dicing lanes of the same dimensions as the device, if you can take that dicing lane down to 10um you are using less die area. You can’t do that with a blade or a laser because of the thermal effects so you get more useable die per wafer. One high brightness LED company has seen an increase in usable die of 30% as a result, which is huge.”

This is also helpful with thinner wafers used by MEMS makers. “When you thin wafers to 50 to 70um thick, they are susceptible to edge fractures, and plasma cutting avoids the cracking. For us it’s the most popular demo machine we have.” The technology is being used by SPTS customer ams in Austria for MEMS microphones developed by Knowles that go into the iPhone 7.

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