“Keeping busy” doesn’t begin to describe what’s happening at EV Group these days. I sat down with Markus Wimplinger, Corporate Technology Development and IP Director, EVG,  at SEMICON West for a full briefing of the company’s latest corporate and technology developments.  Remaining true to their mission of “invent, innovate, implement” gave us a lot to talk about.

Technology Developments
First of all, was the  introduction of the semiconductor industry’s first ever 450mm wafer bonding system, developed for silicon on insulator (SOI) wafer substrate, in anticipation of an industry shift from 300-450mm. Wimplinger says the tool was optimized for SOI wafers, because SOI delivers better performance for sub 22nm CMOS and 3D technologies. He explained that while EVG traditionally develops its bonders first as manual tools for R&D, this tool was developed directly as a fully automated tool because it’s not possible to handle 450mm wafers manually, even at the R&D level.

Rather than wait for the industry to push for the development of 450mm tools, EVG wanted to be more proactive, noted Wimplinger, adding that while other 450mm process tools do exist, this is the first 450mm bonder in the world to be shipped to a customer. SOITEC will take delivery in the fall. The tool will be used for SOI wafer production using Soitec’s SmartCut technology for monolithic 3D integration. It will perform permanent direct oxide bonds.

According to Wimplinger, future plans for 450mm include development of a temporary bond/debond system and the entire EVG product line. Its nanoimprint lithography stepper, while optimized for 300mm, can change out chucks to accommodate 450mm as well.

The second technology innovation announced at SEMICON West during the Metrology Workshop was the integration of an inline metrology module into EVG’s temporary bonding system to optimize wafer bonding and thinning processes, ultimately maximizing yield and investiments.  Wimplinger explained that by using an infrared beam, carrier thickness and uniformity is measured. Additionally, bonding voids and other imperfections in the stack can be detected. From there, it can be determined whether the bonded pair is ready for backgrinding, or if it needs to go through re-work before by debonding and bonding the wafer again. “In high volume manufacturing, yield loss is critical because you’re dealing with total yield loss of a wafer if there are defects.” He noted. “It’s not an issue with R&D or low throughput, but can be critical to maintain high yields.”

Collaborative Projects
Chances are, if you’re touring an R&D facility working on various 3D integration and/or MEMS technologies (with the exception of ITRI) you’ll find that they are partnered with EV Group.  The two recent additions to this trend include EVG’s engagement with the Georgia Tech’s 3D Systems Packaging Research Center with temporary bonding, debonding, chip-to-wafer bonding, and lithography tools and processes for PRC’s silicon and glass interposer industry consortium; and the selection of its 200mm MEMS platform bonding system by Quebec’s MiQro Innovation Collaboration Centre, a partnership of Université de Sherbrooke, Teledyne, Dalsa and IBM.

At Georgia Tech, EVG was drawn by the possibilities of what’s next in packaging – such as panel size glass interposer processes for packages, explained Wimplinger. It was clear that the company’s lithography coating system is suited to support the panel size by leveraging its display substrate knowledge. “It was logical for us to participate in this research,” he said, noting that this is the first time EVG has partnered with Georgia Tech.

The partnership with the MiQro Innovation Collaboration Centre will focus on advanced bonding for 3D MEMS packaging based on metal diffusion and eutectic bonds, including glass frit and conductive bonding schemes incorporating smaller seal rings. Wimplinger said that the system being installed is similar to the one at SEMATECH.  This partnership was a natural progression from 10 years of working with Dalsa to develop innovative technology that becomes industry standard.

Breaking New Ground
Quite literally, in fact. While EVG is known for breaking new ground in innovation, it’s most recent announcement (told to me at SEMICON West but formally announced here today)  involves an actual physical expansion of the Schaerding, Austria headquarters that will roughly double the manufacturing floor.  In order to keep up with the increase in orders, the company is modernizing its existing facility, improving logistical processes and adding capacity for its machining center and new manufacturing technologies.

The new building will be located directly adjacent to the existing manufacturing facility and is scheduled to be completed before the end of this year.  Upgrades include installation of several filter fan units to make the company’s equipment production environment  virtually particle-free; hydraulic ramps and an overhead crane will be installed; and the whole manufacturing area will be fully air conditioned. An area dedicated for visitors will house two glass domes for a viewing the manufacturing area, and test rooms are being built to facilitate customer-specific process development and customization, including a smooth source inspection process even at times of increased orders.

A year ago this week, I visited and toured EVG’s headquarters in Schaerding. I was impressed by what they had then. I can only imagine what this face-lift and expansion is going to add to this operation.  Looks like another visit will be in order when it’s done!

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