LED manufacturing tools and research partnerships headline at Semicon

July 16, 2010
LEDs make a big impact at the Semicon West tradeshow as manufacturing tool makers announce new offerings and Imec adds new partners to its GaN-on-Si research program.

The Semicon West tradeshow took place in San Francisco, CA this week, and LEDs were a huge presence at the event that is focused on IC manufacturing. The conference sessions included a full-day program focused on more-efficient HB-LED manufacturing, and manufacturing tool vendors used the tradeshow as a venue to launch new products. Research specialist Imec, meanwhile, added Micron Technology, Applied Materials, and Ultratech to its GaN-on-Si (gallium nitride on silicon) research program.

LED manufacturing tool announcements came from Veeco Instruments, Palomar Technologies, and EV Group. Veeco announced a new member of its ContourGT Optical Surface Profiler product line. HB-LED makers use the quality-control-centric products to characterize patterned sapphire substrates (PSSs). The new ContourGT-X8 PSS combines Veeco's metrology hardware and software with a new non-contact 3D measurement capability to enable high-throughput, repeatable characterization of PSSs.

"With the rapid growth of PSS as a vital technology for enhancing efficiency and ensuring color consistency in HB-LEDs, measuring their feature size and consistency on sapphire wafers is becoming a critical step in HB-LED manufacturing," said Mark R. Munch, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Veeco Metrology & Instrumentation. “Now, the ContourGT-X8 PSS gives wafer suppliers and HB-LED device manufacturers an affordable way to obtain high-throughput, 3D surface metrology to enhance productivity, while assuring the quality of their end products.”

Automated wafer bonding system

EV Group used Semicon to announce what it proclaims is "the industry's first fully automated wafer bonding system for HB-LED manufacturing." The EVG560HBL wafer bonder can handle multi-substrate bonding and sustain throughput of 160 binds per hour. The tool clearly targets the fact that demand for LEDs continues to lead supply and the new design will allow manufacturers to increase capacity and yield according to the company.

"Leveraging our 30 years of experience in developing wafer bonding solutions for advanced micro-electronics manufacturing, the EVG560HBL is the latest result in our ongoing efforts aimed at helping HB-LED manufacturers develop more efficient, cost-effective and higher yielding devices to meet the demands of their customers," said Paul Lindner, executive technology director, EV Group.

In a different area of bonding, Palomar Technologies announced a new fully-automated wire-bonding and die-attach tool that targets HB-LEDs as well as other semiconductor components. The 3800 Ultra Flexible Die Bonder offers 3.5-micron repeatability and a 36x20-inch work area. The tool can handle throughput of 2600 units per hour. Like the EV Group product, the Palomar die bonder targets LED makers looking to boost manufacturing volumes.

GaN-on-Si industrial affiliation program

In the area of research, Imec is expanding its GaN-on-Si industrial affiliation program that it first launched last year. The program is focused on developing manufacturing equipment technologies for HB-LEDs using a silicon substrate. Micron Technology, Applied Material, and Ultratech have joined the program.

The transition to GaN-on-Si technology could allow LED manufacturing to transition from the relative-small 4-inch sapphire wafers used to day to 8-inch or larger silicon wafers. Generally in semiconductor manufacturing, larger wafers equate to increased manufacturing volumes and lower component prices.

Rudi Cartuyvels, Vice President & General Manager Process Technology at imec stated: “We are excited to welcome 3 major companies to our GaN-on-Si IIAP. Less than a year after the program’s launch in July 2009, we have assembled a strong consortium, including IDMs and equipment suppliers, and we expect more companies to join in the near future. This collaboration reflects the value of imec’s research on GaN-on-Si as a reliable cost-effective solution for next-generation LED and power electronics devices.”

The HB-LED news and sessions at Semicon West clearly indicate the growing importance and potential of LED technology. The conference has generally focused on highly-dense digital ICs, along with manufacturing techniques for precision analog ICs. LED manufacturing is quite different from either, but the market potential has players that have concentrated on the IC space looking to LEDs for new opportunities.