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Collaborate to Reduce Consumables Cost of Ownership

In a continuous quest to reduce semiconductor production costs and improve tool performance, fab managers frequently seek ways to cut the cost of production tool consumables and components. But there are pitfalls.

A strategy focused on cost alone may not consider the differing priorities of many internal design and manufacturing stakeholders: the design team wants the highest-possible tool performance to reduce defects, while the manufacturing group’s imperative is to operate tools at the lowest possible cost in reliable, high-volume production, and the purchasing team wants to lowest possible price.

In some cases, the tool OEM can offer alternatives, including cleaning or repair solutions that are cost-effective and help improve performance. Other times, the best course of action is to redesign the consumable or component to improve the productivity and performance of the tool in a specific application, thereby increasing yield while reducing the tool’s total cost of ownership. But the success of such efforts relies on the depth of equipment knowledge of the company redesigning the part.

The Parts Technology Engineering group at Applied Materials has devised a collaborative approach to the development of application-specific consumables and components for Applied production tools that can reduce overall tool operational costs by meeting the manufacturer’s specific requirements more effectively. The program relies on Applied’s tool knowledge as the OEM, and close communication- engineer to engineer-between the Applied team and the customer. Together, the team works to clearly define the problems, then quickly develop and test a solution, often in a period of just 4 to 6 weeks.

The Parts Technology Engineering program is an outgrowth of a single beta project less than two years ago in partnership with a major logic manufacturer. It has since expanded to collaborations with 27customers at leading-edge fabs worldwide.

One such project involved developing inserts for Applied’s existing Varian implanter isolation valve shields. Flakes will build up on the valve shields and can cause process issues if not cleaned. Cleaning of the existing shields required removal of the valve and a long PM routine. The new valve shield inserts can be removed without removing the valve. (Figure 1) This has contributed to better process performance with dramatically decreased PM time.

In another case, Applied leveraged its Lavacoat technology and etch expertise to reduce piece part costs vs. using a machined texture on its Varian implanters. Adding a texture to the tungsten source chamber liners helps with particle adhesion and improves lifetime.(Figure 2) In addition to lowering the cost of these parts, this technology enables texturing of parts that are otherwise impossible to texture using standard methodologies.

Yet another successful customer collaboration led to the release of a new monovat slit valve door (SVD) for Applied Centura etch systems. Using a new O-ring material called XPE, the SVD bonded seal performs with reduced chemical and mechanical erosion, resulting in lower particles. (Figure 3) Already successfully adopted by several customers, the new SVD offers extended lifetime that reduces labor costs and significantly lowers CoO.

Collaborations such as these require detailed information-sharing, so the Applied Parts Technology Engineering program uses confidentiality agreements, unique part numbers, frequent, in-depth communications between Applied and the customer, linkage to new product introductions, and detailed program-management policies & procedures to ensure a secure, productive a framework of support.

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