The Shift to Materials-Enabled 3D

Every year, media outlets publish year-end reviews and outlooks for the New Year. Solid State Technology, a leading magazine providing the latest electronics manufacturing news, analysis and product information related to semiconductor manufacturing features an annual outlook and invited Randhir Thakur, Executive Vice President, General Manager, Silicon Systems Group, Applied Materials to give his assessment of the major trends for 2014. He identified the shifts to 20 nanometer designs, FinFET transistors and 3D NAND as the game-changing innovations and discussed how Applied is focused on providing the precision materials engineering solutions to address the challenges involved in advancing these technologies.

The pace of technological innovation and change – especially in our increasingly global and connected world – is accelerating. Applied remains at the forefront of enabling these inflections with industry-leading technologies and expertise in precision materials engineering. Applied is collaborating earlier and deeper with customers to solve device performance and yield challenges to extend Moore’s law and enable new applications in our everyday life.

Below is a copy of Randhir’s outlook as published in Solid State Technology.

Innovations in mobile computing and communications will continue to be a driving factor for the semiconductor equipment industry. To enable high performance chips for new and exciting applications, our foundry/logic and memory customers that manufacture semiconductors are migrating from lithography-enabled 2D transistors and 2D NAND to materials-enabled 3D transistors and 3D NAND.  These device architecture inflections require significant advances in precision materials engineering in conformal materials deposition, materials removal, and materials modification.  Selective materials processes will play a more prominent role.  Smaller features and atomic-level thin films also make interface engineering and process integration more critical than ever.

Some significant ongoing industry developments to highlight are the new materials and architectural changes in the transistor to reduce power consumption and drive performance gains. The increased complexity of the 3D FinFET architecture in combination with continued scaling requires great precision in structure formation, especially when forming the gate. More advanced atomic-level process technologies in selective epitaxy, metal gate, implant, anneal, etch, and planarization are needed. Also critical to meeting the industry’s precision engineering requirements are improved materials that offer more choices for increasing selectivity, control and performance. And, let’s not forget the advances underway to develop new higher mobility channel materials.

Another exciting inflection in 2014 is our memory customers’ transition from planar two-dimensional NAND to vertical three-dimensional NAND. 3D technology holds the promise of terabit-era capacity and lower costs by enabling denser device packing, the most fundamental requirement for memory. There are complex device performance and yield challenges, such as distortion-free high aspect ratio etching, staircase case patterning with precise step-width control, uniform and repeatable gate stack deposition.

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