Entrepix smooths the path to 3D integration

These days when someone says foundry service one more often than not
thinks of large HVM facilities in Asia churning out wafers for
companies around the world.  Tempe, AZ-based Entrepix however, is a
company that breaks that stereotype.  It is a provider of CMP and
surface conditioning solutions that are being extensively used by many
of today’s major IDMs.  

We sat down with Robert Rhodes, CTO, and Jim Mello, VP of Business
Development, during last month’s Semicon West in San Francisco to
understand Entrepix’ and in particular, their activities in 3D
integration.  Rhodes explained that the company was formed in 1998 to
provide a resource for CMP equipment refurbishment and support.  By
2002 the company had progressed to offering a full CMP outsourcing
service.  Now they offer a full range of surface conditioning services
with expertise and capabilities in CMP, wafer back-grinding, and wafer
cleaning.  Their facility includes a 14,000 ft2
sub-Class 100 cleanroom that contains an array of processing and
metrology equipment sets capable of running wafer sizes through 300
mm.  Recently the company received its ISO 9001:2008 certification. 
They have CMP platforms from all the major suppliers in the industry
covering both large platen and orbital type systems.  

Entrepix has a large customer base that spans an array of product lines.  Their approach is based upon their CMP FastForward
solution that allows Entrepix to input change at any point in a
customer’s product process life-cycle.  This gives the option for
customers to outsource critical CMP and surface conditioning
applications based upon their needs.  In some cases it may mean a
continuation of the lifespan of existing toolsets through
refurbishment, for others it might open up availability to critical fab
tools for other development or added manufacturing capacity through
foundry services.  In conjunction with their many OEM partners that
include chemical companies, pad, and slurry manufacturers, they have
successfully enabled time-critical production ramps for many IDMs. 
They are frequently used to evaluate the issues of CMP on new
materials, the screening of consumables, and development of cost
reduction strategies.  To date, they are qualified at ten top IDMs.

Their expertise has seen application beyond standard front end fab
processing.  They have ongoing activities in packaging and MEMS
development.  One of the most critical areas of development for them is
in 3D integration.  In June of this year they released a joint press
announcement with flash memory start up Schiltron Corporation
concerning the successful manufacture of the smallest silicon-based TFT
that has yet been produced.  Entrepix played a critical role in the
creation of the first gate (48 nm gate in length, 45 nm in width) and
the formation of the ultra-thin channel (35 nm) for the device.  The
success of their CMP process will go along way to demonstrating the
viability of this monolithic 3D-device, which is expected to be a
replacement for existing NAND in the future.  

One of the key factors in their success is the experience and depth of
process knowledge of engineers employed by the company.  Many of them
have extensive experience in CMP having previously worked at suppliers
or IDMs.  The recent sale of SEZ and its US subsidiary allowed them to
further strengthen their position in surface preparation by hiring many
veterans of the cleaning sector.  The company continues to see growth
in both refurbishment and process outsourcing.  Mello commented that
the two services are actually self-feeding and that many of the
customers they have use both side of the business.

With the increasing emphasis on cost reduction, decreased
time-to-market, and finding alternate strategies for development of
advanced technologies such as TSV, it’s clear that Entrepix has great
potential for continued growth and success.