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The Big Show Feels Its Age

Many in the semiconductor equipment, materials, and subsystems industry are questioning the continuing value of the Semicon concept and Semicon West in particular. Some companies have significantly downsized their presence or withdrawn altogether from one or more of the expositions. This situation has forced SEMI to try to evolve and at least partially reinvent its shows.

Now in its 36th year, Semicon West, the trade association’s preeminent event, returns to San Francisco the week of July 10. In addition to the myriad booths of some 1500 tool, subsystems, materials, and other supplier companies spread across the three main Moscone Center halls, the usual full slate of standards meetings, conferences, and workshops includes many sessions cosponsored with SPIE, IEEE/CPMT, ISMI, and other industry groups.

One new highlight at this year’s show will be the four TechXPOTs in various locations, featuring focused technical presentations, booth clusters of some of the winning Technology Innovation Showcase companies, giveaways, and other special goings-on (see accompanying story for more details). The series of free industry keynotes will feature some heavy hitters, including Laurent Bosson, STMicroelectronics’ executive VP of front-end technology and manufacturing (Tuesday, July 11, 10 a.m., West Hall); Willem Roelandts, Xilinx’s president, CEO, and chairman (Wednesday, July 12, 10 a.m., West Hall); and the return of Steve Appleton, Micron’s president, CEO, and chairman (Wednesday, 1 p.m., West Hall). For those multitaskers who want to network and quench their thirst at the same time, check out the return of the Semicon West Beer Hall, also in the West Hall.

Of course, if you do attend Semicon West this year, please stop by and say hello to MICRO’s team at Booth 1601 in the South Hall.

TechXPOTs Aim for Targeted Content, Showcase Technology Innovation Winners

The TechXPOT concept represents one of SEMI’s key efforts to maintain interest and relevance for Semicon participants. Four “show-within-the-show” areas located in three different exhibit halls focus on challenges in device scaling to 45 and 32 nm (North Hall), emerging technologies (West Hall), manufacturing productivity and effectiveness (Esplanade), and test and assembly/packaging (West Hall). Each spot will feature technical presentations, select winners of the annual Technology Innovation Showcase (TIS), exhibits, contests, and other activities.

“By segmenting Semicon West into technical focus areas,” explains SEMI’s Ralph Kirk, “we are creating dedicated locations that highlight similar innovative technologies, thereby allowing attendees to make more efficient use of their time at the expo.”

The TIS field has been expanded. Now honoring 32 winners, the companies range from nascent start-ups to well-established industry players. Their products and technologies come from the domains of e-manufacturing and EDA, front-end processing, MEMS, nanotechnology, and test/assembly/packaging (TAP).

One intriguing e-manufacturing winner is Seaware Technologies. The start-up’s Mobius system service is a “platform for test and diagnostics of wafer process tool process chemistry systems.” The company says that its “innovative technology service model, built around customers using a diagnostic power tool, lets gas box designers, test technicians, tool service technicians, fab tool operators, and maintenance technicians diagnose problems to improve processes.”

In the front-end processing category, MultiMetrixs says that its MultiSensorRST module “allows process tools to conduct instantaneous multipoint measurements, inspection, and control of a single- or multilayer film stack’s sheet resistance, resistivity, thickness, uniformity, etc.”

Neocera, an incubator company with “close ties” to the University of Maryland, also taps the metrology vein in the front-end group. The company’s NeoMetriK tool “provides quantitative in-line dielectric constant and capacitance metrology throughout the copper/low-k interconnect process, for use in process development, yield ramp, and advanced process control.”

A familiar name from the semiconductor process equipment world shows up on the MEMS list: Lam Research. The company’s 9400DSiE is “designed for deep silicon etch applications and offers a wide range of process capability for MEMS, advanced packaging, and power semiconductor applications.” Another company in the MEMS TIS group is Applied MicroStructures with its molecular vapor deposition (MVDTM) equipment, which “enables highly uniform vacuum-based deposition of organic coatings for MEMS and microelectronics markets.”

ALIS Technology and its Looking Glass LG2 helium ion microscope won a nanotechnology slot. The company’s instrument uses a “finely focused beam of helium ions to image a wide variety of materials with [superior] resolution and contrast.” Nano winner Pixelligent Technologies’ Arsel reversible contrast-enhancement layer is one of what the company calls a “platform of products based on proprietary nanocrystal technology that extend the life of 193-nm lithography, improve yields, and reduce costs.”

Other winners in the EDA and e-manufacturing categories are Luminescent Technologies, Petersen Advanced Lithography, and Straatum. Selectees in the front-end processing category also include Accretech, Actinix, Advanced Electron Beams, Cabot Microelectronics, Digmesa, Filmetrics, Metrosol, and RASIRC. The rest of the MEMS and nanotech awardees are Akustica, Ascend Instruments, Cambrios Technologies, memsstar Technology, Metryx, and NanoDynamics (the only repeat winner from 2005’s competition).

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