A very short word for a hugely important technology, without which there would be no microchips. Etch is the process by which images of circuit features printed on a silicon wafer are engraved into the films below. Put another way, etch makes circuits real.
It might be the understatement of the year to say that Flash memory is popular. Every year, we consume nearly twice as many bits as the year before.
Consider these nuggets: Today’s smart phones have more Flash memory than a desktop computer’s hard drive from the mid-1990s. Even budget phones can capture high-definition (HD) video and share it on the web. Flash-based solid state drives have moved from exotic to commonplace in just the last couple of years.
This has been made possible by a precipitous fall in the cost-per-bit. Every five years, the cost falls by an order of magnitude. How do memory makers cope with this treadmill?
Photomasks, as regular readers of this blog may recall, are the blueprints used for making chips. The photolithography process prints the patterns etched on the mask onto silicon wafers to define transistors, memory cells and wiring – all the nanoscale structures that make up a functional device.
Lithography is expected to undergo a seismic shift over the next few years as the industry adopts a new technology called extreme ultraviolet lithography, or EUV for short. This change requires a new generation of photomasks featuring new materials and operating principles.
Faster, smarter and greener than anything that’s gone before. There’s new technology that’s changing the way chips are made, enabling manufacturers to build processing powerhouses for the mobile devices of the future.
It’s becoming incredibly challenging for the industry to shrink chip features to continually deliver higher levels of performance and battery life. Of course, we’ve been saying that for years, but the semiconductor industry always finds a way to extend Moore’s Law, bending the laws of physics in our favor. Today, our customers are working on chips with transistors less than 20nm across: A million of them would fit into the area of the period at the end of this sentence.
Photomasks, the quartz plates that hold microchip circuit patterns, must be as close to perfect as possible. Any imperfections will be reproduced on every chip on every wafer, potentially wasting a lot of time and expensive silicon.
Applied is a vital part of the mask making ecosystem. Virtually every high-end mask is made using Applied’s Tetra etch systems, a new version of which has just been released.
In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a period designated by the U.S. Congress to acknowledge the presence and contributions of Latinos in the United States and which officially begins today, I wanted to take the opportunity to blog and reflect on this year’s theme: “Heritage, Diversity, Integrity and Honor: The Renewed Hope of America.”