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A Letter from Charlie Pappis—Back to the Future: Building the Latest Technology with Legacy Tools

Charlie Pappis

Group Vice President and General Manager, Applied Global Services

Charlie Pappis

When it comes to the fast-paced world of technology, we tend to assume that whatever's "the latest" is also "the greatest." Just look at the long lines that form outside your local Apple store every time a new version of the iPhone is released.

That's why the unprecedented surge in demand for 200mm legacy tools, largely driven by mobility innovations—including smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT)—presents such an interesting challenge for the semiconductor industry. Although FinFETs, 3D NAND and other leading-edge device designs continue to push the IC technology roadmap, the fact is more than 75% of the ICs in the latest iPhone 6 Plus were manufactured on trailing-edge 150mm and 200mm equipment—much of it first delivered back in the 1980s.

These legacy tools are vital to delivering a steady stream of cost-sensitive "More-than-Moore" devices. Fabricated with non-leading edge die, these devices are produced in fabs that must continuously evolve to operate flexibly and with peak yield and maximized output. This is a high-value problem that Applied Materials understands very well, and is committed to helping our customers address. In this issue of Nanochip you’ll learn how Applied Materials is continuing to invest in manufacturing, technology and service offerings for 200mm platforms through our R&D facility in Xi'an, China, our 200mm lab in Singapore, our manufacturing operation in Austin, Texas, and other satellite operations in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Kalispell, Montana, and Tel Aviv, Israel.

A great example is the new Applied Vita controller, introduced last fall. Many 200mm systems have controllers that were designed decades ago and haven’t been updated since. The Vita controller includes a much more powerful processor, flash memory and other features that can bring 200mm Applied Endura and Centura systems up to modern levels of performance and process control. When combined with our growing portfolio of advanced, technology-enabled service and consulting options, which we discuss in this issue, customers can increase output and improve 200mm device performance and yield.

A tangible example of our new outcome-based service programs is a case study describing how a foundry with Applied Centura tools engaged our FabVantage Consulting Group with a goal to cut scrap rates by 50%. The Applied consultants ultimately exceeded the customer's target, with recommendations and services which, when implemented, reduced wafer scrap to <0.2% and spending on certain parts by 4x.

Also detailed in this issue is the interesting strategy of Silicon Labs, a fast-growing, fabless supplier of devices targeting IoT applications, along with a compelling inside view of China’s efforts to become an IC powerhouse. By leveraging government seed money and matching investments that could total US $170 billion over the next 5 to 10 years, China hopes to emerge as a major new player in chip manufacturing.

Finally, we salute the 10th anniversary of Nanochip Fab Solutions with a look back at how much our industry has changed over the past decade. But what hasn't changed, and what I hope you take away from these pages, is that Applied Materials is here for you. Whether you’re trying to optimize a legacy 200mm system, move to a new technology node on a state-of-the-art 300mm system, increase output, or reduce total costs, we can help you achieve your goals. Define the performance and the results you want, and we’ll deliver the technology, service and support to get you there.