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Date: 21-06-12

45nm to 28nm to 22nm to 14nm: A steep climb for the semiconductor industry

When the industry moved to 45nm few years back, the chip fabricators and designers were facing the challenge of sensitivity of the design to small variations. This applies both for semiconductor chip-design and manufacturing. The timing, condutance, insulation and resistance variations, inter-device and inter-terminal electromagnetic interference was rised to tough-to-manage levels. EDA tools redesigned to handle such challenges. The semiconductor manufacturing issues were virtually applied during design stage so that place and route was done by co-simulating fabrication.

For semiconductor equipment industry it was about investing huge money in immersion lithography and increasing the processes and checks. The strained silicon was the material change. The increasing number of functionalities such as on-chip graphics, analog was also a design challenge.

That is past now. The present is, all this multiplied many times--- plus the complex device fabrication issues.

At 28nm nodes the leakage is so high demanding High K dielectric Metal Gate (HKMG) to reduce leakage and to reduce gate lengths. The gate first, double patterning is employed both at 28nm and 22nm. Well EUV based lithography going to solve much of these problems but it has its own set of new issues.

 This writer asked Aninda Moitra, President, Applied Material India on the node trends. Here below is what he says:

 1. On the 14nm availability in 2013: Aninda suggests the industry readiness is there, but mass production may be pushed.

 2. 20nm yield issues: He sees moving from 28nm to 20nm, all move to high K Metal Gate, finfet or 3D technology for the transistor. By mass production prospective this transition going to take long worth of challenges, according to him.

 3. New Materials at deeper nodes: Aninda says the trasition to 3D structures is going to cause need for a variety of deposition techniques. High K Metal Gate and Gate first and gate last need different set of material and the other area is looking at III-V materials (compound semiconductor), he adds. Clearly different deposition techniques and different material to go hand-in-hand for deeper scaling, Aninda quotes.

Applied Materials offer basic CVD to fully blown atomic layer deposition and advanced metal layer deposition. Applied working with its customers in supplying equipment for 14nm node.

 4. On India semiconductor fab: Aninda says this time with all the discussions going on it is clear to us that learning from the past are being taken into consideration.

Here is a nice quote from him "high end manufacturing is essential for India. If I look at the India semiconductor ecosystem, you got design, you got software, the thing that is missing is manufacturing and so that really is the highest value chain of the semiconductor ecosystem."

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