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The Industry Transition to Single Wafer Thermal Processing

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NOLAN KUAN, Applied Materials, Inc., Santa Clara, CA, USA


To further enhance device performance, the industry has shifted its focus from copper interconnects to improving the transistor. As gate lengths shrink and ultra-shallow junctions are implemented, controlling thermal budget across all thermal processing steps becomes critical to device performance. Thermal processing applications have traditionally been performed in batch tube furnaces. With the development of Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP), the industry started to realise the technical benefits of single-wafer processing systems to provide reduced thermal budget, improved dopant activation, and improved process control. With processing times of minutes versus hours for furnaces, single-wafer tools offer an order of magnitude reduction in the thermal budget, even using higher processing temperatures. Today, in addition to technical drivers, there are strong economic drivers in the semiconductor market for the use of single wafer thermal processing tools, the primary driver being cycle time reduction. Shorter product life cycles, decreasing technology adoption cycles, and increasing time-to-market pressures require decreased development and production cycle times. As semiconductor manufacturers transition from 200mm to 300mm wafers, they are choosing single-wafer toolsets to deliver the technological and productivity benefits their products demand.

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