Solving Challenges In Front End Semiconductor Manufacturing
The Benefits of Polymer Solutions
By Prasad, K.R. (February 2022)
Semiconductors are critical in many commonly used electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, IoT devices and PCs with chip makers Intel and Samsung Electronics being the largest companies in this industry. There are various types of manufacturing, one being front end semiconductor manufacturing that represents the initial series of steps in a semiconductor fabrication workflow. They typically follow crystal growth and wafer extraction, and precede so-called back end processes involving integrated circuit (IC) assembly. A combination of extreme accuracy and precision is needed and this complex manufacturing chain is normally handled by a series of partners specialising in one or more semiconductor manufacturing processes – which is part of the reason why the semiconductor industry was so vulnerable to supply chain issues precipitated by the pandemic.
Smaller sizes and geometries are expected by customers in next-generation semiconductor technology, which is where polymer sealing solutions can be beneficial in the more demanding and challenging manufacturing processes seen in today’s current landscape. Polymer materials can handle harsher chemicals and higher temperatures that contribute to the wear and tear on the equipment. This extends the life of equipment, reduces overall cost and protects against sealing failures.
Understanding The Semiconductor Fabrication Landscape: Market Outlook
The semiconductor industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector with unprecedented cross-market penetration. Global sales estimates vary, but the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization reports that industry sales would be US$553 billion in 2021, the biggest increase since 2010. This staggering forecast comes amid an ongoing semiconductor shortage which has been described as nothing short of a crisis.
Integrated circuits (ICs) based on silicon wafers have been integrated into the strata of virtually every industry on earth. Thus, a shortage effects everyone from automotive engineers through to manufacturers of electronic toothbrushes. Meeting this ever-growing demand during a period of shipping container shortages, border disruption, and wholesale staff absences, was nothing short of impossible for such a globally sprawling industry.
However, the silver lining for domestic companies is an increase in funding and subsidies for local wafer processing facilities. It became evident that integrated companies specialising in multiple steps in the semiconductor processing chain have a clear advantage over those who are beholden to external partners who are struggling with their own supply/demand issues. It can therefore be advantageous to work with an established supplier with expertise supplying semiconductor solutions for multiple touchpoints in the fabrication chain.
Choosing The Right Precision Sealing Partner
Omniseal Solutions™ is part of Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and trusted suppliers for critical global markets. We benefit from that global footprint, as do our customers, who gain valued engineering support wherever they are operating. Our specialty is in providing custom, precision sealing and wear solutions based on fluoropolymers, polyimides, and polyetheretherketone (PEEK), plus metal seals for high-pressure environments and composites for light weight solutions. We have managed to continue operating throughout the pandemic, serving bespoke semiconductor solutions to a wide range of front end semiconductor manufacturing companies.
Our high-performance seals are designed for a wide range of semiconductor processing equipment, including wafer cleaning, chemical mechanical planarization, deposition chambers, etch chambers, and vacuum pumps. We consider the individual needs of each customer and develop an innovative solution to fit each use case. If the requirement is for a Omniseal® spring-energized seal or a Meldin® 7000 polymer bearing for wafer cleaning equipment, for example, our expert design team will generate a prototype and will subsequently deliver a solution engineered to the strictest tolerances. Even the smallest impurity can create a significant impact to the yield of the equipment. We maintain the highest levels of purity while manufacturing precision parts that maximize yield.