When will I learn that skirts and clean room tours don’t mix? And I always seem to be visiting EVG’s facilities when these situations arise. Yesterday at their Open House in Tempe, it wasn’t a clean room suit incident.  It was the waffle floors with upward ventilation that almost caught me in a full blown Marilyn Monroe moment….but thankfully I caught it in time!

This particular occasion was held to simultaneously celebrate EVG’s 30th anniversary, launch the EVG520L3 Next-Generation Wafer Bonding System in North America (the formal launch took place at SEMICON Europa two weeks ago) and host the attendees of this week’s MEMS Executive Congress for a lovely outdoor reception and dinner.

To showcase their presence in the MEMS, microfluidics, and flexible panel display markets, EVG invited Raplh Danzl from Medtronics, Hemant Desai from Freescale, and Nick Colanari from the Flexible Display Center at ASU to present on their technologies. Additionally, EVG’s own Garrett Oakes, Eric Pabo and Ron Miller provided supporting presentations highlighting EVG’ process support business model in Tempe, and the company’s tool capabilities in the various market spaces.

Steve Dwyer started things off with a brief overview of EVG’s history, not unlike the story I reported after my visit to Schärding back in July. But I, of course, talked mostly about the company’s presence in the 3D space.  Dwyer pointed out a similar track record for EVG in the MEMS market. “We grew up with MEMS”, he noted, talking about how Erich Thallner, founder of EVG, invented the first backside lithography system for MEMS market back in 1985. Then in 1990 came the 1990 first wafer bonding systems using the process separation principle of alignment and bonding that became industry standard. In 1998, EVG launched OmniSpray, a cavity coating technology for uniform photoresists layers on high topography surfaces. The list goes on.

With all the involvement they have in 3D InCites, I feel like I’m pretty well versed in the EVG story, so I was surprised to find out about the prototyping and pilot line business that is emerging here in Tempe. Garrett Oakes, director of technology for EVG NA, called the facility “the shining jewel of the company.”

At first the facility was very “EVG-centric”, with modest capital investment in a cleanroom that had low fab and capital utilization. Then they company entered what Oakes called the “prototype phase” with customers working in the lab hand in hand with EVG engineers prior to a tool sale, primarily for proof of concept.  Now they are moving to the “nursery phase” doing pilot line work, front-end processes and prototyping. They have formed strong partnerships with other complementary wafer service providers in what they’ve dubbed the “Fed Ex work flow”, handing off wafers to partners for their processing steps. The customer sees the wafer when it’s first shipped out and then again in its complete state. “Lab utilization has skyrocketed at this point.” Says Oakes, “we’ve seen a 65% CAGR.”  The plan is to go from full small builds to production builds until the orders are too large for them to handle, at which point they would facilitate technology transfer to high volume manufacturing.

Currently, the lab is outfitted with all 200mm equipment; some semi and some fully automated, but they will be bringing in 300mm tools and processes in 2011. According to Dwyer, the company will invest $5M in 2011 to ramp to 300mm and take on some 3D TSV processes here in addition  to the work they’re doing in MEMS, microfluidics, and bonding/debonding for flex substrates. (That caught my attention!)

Oakes talked about some of the processes in development such as spray coating a MEMS device with dual layer and a new type of bonding called Transient Liquid Phase (TLP). At the prototyping phase is microfluidic manufacturing, large format inkjet printing, and direct bond of power devices to a carrier wafer.  In the nursery, they’re working on direct bonding of CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) to a backplane, and are bringing one customer up to pilot build on that.

The program switched gears slightly to give some end-user perspective and support Pabo and Miller’s presentations on EVG’s capabilities in MEMS and microfluidics. Ralph Danzl talked about the medical device industry, and explaining how the need innovation for product miniaturization, reliability, biostability and biocompatibility has the industry looking to semiconductors and MEMS for enabling processes.  Medtronics is particularly interested in technologies supporting RFID and energy harvesting devices.

Hemant Dasai from Freescale talked about the company’s success in automotive MEMS sensors and consumer applications that provide “constant awareness to the person.”  Freescale is working towards “intelligent contextual sensing” that forms the foundation of multiple sensor types including pressure, magnetic, inertial, capacitive touch, voltage and temperature to form a full ‘sensing system.’  In all of these technologies, Dasai stressed that wafer bonding is the key MEMS technology, and is becoming more and more critical to driving costs down and throughput up.

Pabo concurred that while MEMS market trend is steady and on the rise, cost pressure is coming from consumerization of MEMS devices.  He also noted that start-ups are generally not buying equipment, but are buying access to equipment.  “One value we provide is access to equipment without capital investment,” he said.

On the equipment side, the company’s new tool relies on process separation for enhanced throughput and reduced cost wafer bonding.  Other improvements include decreasing bond line sizes to decrease how much wafer real estate is consumed.  The tool allows for increased hermeticity and reduced outgassing for novel MEMS devices, as well as 3D integration schemes with metallic interconnects (TSV).

The key, says Pabo, is process separation, using 3 distinct chambers that handle preheat, bond and cooling processes individually.  For high volume manufacturing, Pabo says the L3 can be integrated into Gemini platform, which allows for cassette-to-cassette manufacturing with customizable preprocessing modules such as cleaning and plasma activation, and alignment using the SmartView Aligner.

There was more. I realize I haven’t mentioned the microfluidics presentations or the Flexible Display Center, but to be honest, that’s sort of outside 3D InCites scope of coverage anyway, and I’m trying to get this posted before I need to leave for the MEMS Exec Congress which starts in less than two hours, so this is going to have to be it for now.   Until next time! – F.v.T

Francoise von Trapp

They call me the “Queen of 3D” because I have been following the course of…

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