Almost a year ago, Dave Kirsch took over the reins from Steve Dwyer as VP and General Manager of EV Group North America. Since EV Group launched a tool last week at SEMICON Singapore, and since EVG NA’s headquarters are practically in 3D InCites’ back yard, I thought it was time to check in and catch up with Kirsch to find out more about this tool launch, and the company’s activities in the 3D IC space and elsewhere.
We started out talking about EVG’s 3D IC activities, since that seemed most logical considering the nature of 3D InCites. What he said sort of answered the question in my last blog – has 3D hit a lull or are we in stealth mode?
“What we’ve been experiencing over the past year, is level movement in 3D activities,” explained Kirsch. “For the past few years, we were busy with inquiries and selling equipment. At this point, the capacity to do pilot line and low volume production is installed and customers are optimizing process integration aspects while they wait for first design wins.”
From where EVG sits, with tools in pre-production pilot lines at major manufacturers for industrial R&D and being put through its final qualification paces, its all just a matter of time, noted Kirsch. It’s going to happen, the question remains when? In Kirsch’s opinion, what we’re experiencing is not so much a “lull” but a normal stage of the technology adoption curve. “Technology can only be pushed so far,” he explained. “Eventually market pull by first volume applications will be required to move things forward.”
While 3D IC progresses through this phase, EVG is enjoying growth in other market segments. The company focuses its efforts on three areas of core competency: bonding, resist processing and alignment, and adapting standards for these into various markets (MEMS, compound semiconductor and advanced packaging). To accommodate these markets’ diversity, EVG’s equipment supports wafer sizes ranging from 2” to 300mm, explained Kirsch. He added that they have also expanding capabilities to 450mm, with the first prototype system, co-developed with SOITEC, already shipped.
“We’ve seen success in MEMS this past year with market share acquisition for wafer bonding technologies, particularly in high-volume manufacturing,” noted Kirsch. He added that they’ve been excelling in temporary bonding and debonding – focused on cost-of-ownership and improved yield through room temperature debonding.
EVG worked closely with Brewer Science to develop tools that enabled the ZoneBond process. The goal of ZoneBond is to debond at ambient temperature to lower cost of ownership and improve yields. Here is where EVG leveraged technology developed for one market and applied it to another. Kirsch says the ZoneBond is in production for compound semiconductor applications, and is now in qualification for 3D ICs.
Our conversation turned to last week’s launch of the EVG120 automated resist processing system, which supports coating and developing applications for a variety of markets, including MEMS, advanced packaging, and compound semiconductors.
EVG’s operates from what they call the “Triple I” philosophy: invent, innovate, implement. Kirsch said this new tool is an example of the “implement” step. While the original system has been on the market for a few years, EVG revamped it incorporating solutions that were originally developed for 300mm equipment platforms such as newer robots and handling systems for faster throughput. The result is a 200mm tool targeted for the intricacies of handling MEMS wafers in high-volume manufacturing (HVM).
By practicing its Triple I approach, Kirsch says the company hopes to gain further ground in the advanced packaging lithography market by building upon technologies originally developed for new, emerging applications.
So with SEMICON West only a few months away, I asked Kirsch what to expect from EV Group. He said this year, the focus will be on process advancements rather than tool introductions. I’ll certainly be looking forward to see what they come up with next. ~ F.v.T.