Rarely do I have the opportunity to visit a company two times and find something new to write about, never mind three. But as always, EV Group didn’t disappoint for my visit Friday (January 17, 2014) to see the company’s latest additions, both to the physical plant and to the product and technology line for 3D integration technologies.
My visit really started the evening before with a lovely dinner out at the local wirsthaus, Wirsthaus Bums’n with EVG’s Paul Lindner, Markus Wimplinger, Clemens Schuette, Lisa Kinz, and Thomas Glinsner; and for the third time I stayed at the Hotel Gugerbauer, (a lovely spa hotel, which I am determined to visit for vacation purposes only some day).
Schaerding is one of those places where everyone knows each other, and stops on the street to chat. During dinner, we discussed the culture of EV Group itself – it too is one of those companies where everyone feels like and is treated like family. Of the group seated at the table, most had been with the company shortly after completing university, and have been a part of the EVG story ever since.
This chapter in the EV Group story is about growth. Upon arrival at EV Group world headquarters in St. Florian-am-Inn, Austria, Friday morning, I quite frankly didn’t recognize the place from two years ago. It’s positively PALATIAL. Really. My jaw dropped as I entered the spacious, airy, very modern reception area and signed in. And come to think of it, my tour this year didn’t include one area that I’d visited in the past.
Paul Lindner, EV Group’s executive technology director, filled me in on what’s new since my last visit in 2012, such as the 21000m2 addition that includes new offices, double the cleanroom space, a training center for internal and customer training, an R&D center specifically for new tool design and developments, an on-site restaurant for employees and an on-site kindergarten. Additionally, they upgraded the older cleanrooms to a newer standard and class-10 cleanliness to make them state-of-the-art and closer to what customers are running with regards to temperature and humidity control.
The idea, explained Lindner, is to produce process results equivalent to customer operations, and is driven so that they can create more automated systems that accurately determine known throughput and cost of ownership (CoO). EV Group has also grown its international footprint, with EVG China and EVG Taiwan now fully established to serve those regions with increased process support and technical support for its install base.
“55% of order intake in the past few years has been in Asia, with a 168% increase in the install base in China.” Lindner explained. He added that worldwide, order intake has been dominated by HVM operations, while they continue the Triple I story by maintaining sales to universities and research centers. “Our growth story is intact,” he said. “We completed last year with 10 consecutive years of 15% average growth.” He attributes a lot of that to temporary bonding, diffusion bonding, and the take off of backside illuminated CMOS image sensor technologies (BSI CIS).
On the technology side, Thorsten Matthias, EVG’s business development director, talked about the company’s technology advancements in lithography processes for 3D TSV “interconnectology steps” (also known as the mid-end process steps); and Markus Wimplinger, EVG’s corporate technology development and IP director, focused on fusion and bonding for monolithic 3D, Si Photonics, and of course, temporary bonding and debonding (TB/DB).
While I will get deeper into details of both these presentations in a subsequent post, I wanted to mention Wimplinger’s thoughts on the TB/DB issue that seems to be the 3D challenge-yet-to-be-solved. He pointed out that TB/DB has been in successful production for other applications, such as compound semionductors , for years. His take is philosophical: “If customers acknowledge and accept the limitations of temporary bonding and debonding, and work in a solution-oriented approach, the challenges can be overcome,” he explained. He cited ams as an example of a company who is successfully manufacturing 3D IC devices on a 200mm line. “They are a great example of why 3D is successful. They started very early and are solution oriented.” ams has developed an X-ray sensor for medical applications that delivers a low-dose X-ray with better sensitivity, and higher resolution at a lower cost. “The 3D promise came through,” noted Lindner.
This is the second time this week it was pointed out to me that 3D technologies are being manufactured using 200mm lines. At Fraunhofer EMFT, the clean room I toured was all 200mm. When I asked Peter Ramm why, he explained that most of the customers they have manufacturing 3D devices are doing it successfully on a 200mm line. If there is a need to go to 300mm, they work closely in partnership with Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID in Dresden.
Wimplinger concurred that 200mm is still predominant, particularly in Europe. He added that what differentiated “200mm folks from 300mm folks” is a humbleness. They are willing to take the solution-oriented approach and work within boundary conditions. That is why EVG continues to innovate processes for 200mm. What is unique about EVG, he explained, is that the latest process technology is available on any wafer size. “We take 300mm learnings and supply them in the 200mm world,” he said.
After visiting Nordson DAGE, Fraunhofer EMFT, and EV Group this week, in addition to the requests I have had to visit additional companies when I return in March, it’s clear to me 3D in Europe is really hopping – and I’m not just talking about this tour I’m on. In general, European companies don’t really care whether or not we’re talking about niche applications or high volume manufacturing consumer products. It’s all good for the European economy. The attitudes are very optimistic and enthusiastic. I fit in well here. I’m looking forward to hearing more at this week’s European 3D TSV Summit. ~ F.v.T.