Tackling Technological Innovation

Research and Development for Next-Generation Computing

Demand for semiconductors is increasing on a global scale and production is expected to grow even further in the future. Under such conditions, an unchecked increase in power consumption due to the growing use of semiconductors may lead to an energy supply risk in the market. In modern-day computing, focus for edge devices is placed on lower power consumption, but for the server-side the focus is more on performance rather than power consumption. This is in response to the market needs. Therefore in the future, we may need to rethink the balance of Power usage, Performance, Area of silicon, Cost and Environmental impact (PPACE) of our devices in order to address this energy issue. At Tokyo Electron, we recognize these and other issues and are
working to resolve them through our semiconductor production equipment business.

One solution to the power efficiency problem is to place memory devices closer to logic devices (computational circuits). By shortening the electrical pathway, one can reduce the electrical resistance and thereby reduce power consumption during information transfer between the devices. Optimization of device architecture using this technique is effective, and development in this area has been gaining momentum in recent years.

Additionally, for logic devices, SoCs*¹ that take advantage of the computing characteristics of CPUs, GPUs*² and NPUs*³ and distribute computational tasks to the most efficient circuits are increasingly popular. This SoC architecture can be built by a monolithic process that does not use bonding technology, but can also be built using 3D system integration techniques which leverage bonding technology. Also called “heterogeneous integration*⁴”, 3D system integration technology combines and packages a variety of different materials such as silicon and non-silicon elements, CPUs and DRAMs*⁵, analog and other electronic components.

In AI technology, development of analog neural devices*⁶ and nonvolatile resistive random access memories*⁷ which mimic the energy-efficient human brain function is well underway. Our film deposition technology contributes to this development.

By combining and applying these technologies, we will be able to further reduce power consumption and improve computing efficiencies in a variety of devices.

Realizing next-generation computing requires the development of AI chipsets with an even higher processing speed and greater energy efficiency. By taking maximum advantage of a wide range of technologies and techniques from semiconductor production, we are working to create high-value-added equipment that can help meet one of the next-generation computing needs of bringing computer performance closer to that of the human brain. We are expanding the technological areas in which we can contribute by developing new materials and boosting the performance of chipsets through 3D system integration equipment offerings, which in turn optimize the power efficiency of semiconductors by realizing next-generation computing requirements.

We are also working on the development and application of quantum computing technology for the next generation and beyond.

*1 SoC: System on a Chip, a design technique in which many or all of the functions required for system operation are mounted on a single semiconductor chip, or a chip built using this technique.
*2 GPU: Graphics Processing Unit, a dedicated electronic circuit designed to manipulate and modify memory to speed up the generation of images used for displays.
*3 NPU: Neural network Processing Unit, a processor dedicated to AI that incorporates a neural network that is modeled after the human cranial nervous system.
*4 Heterogeneous Integration: Packaging that unites different kinds of chips
*5 DRAM: Dynamic Random Access Memory. A type of semiconductor memory used in the main storage unit (or other electronic devices) of a computer as a large-capacity working memory
*6 Analog neural devices: Electronic devices capable of continuously changing resistance
*7 Nonvolatile Resistive random access memory: Random access memory that uses nonvolatile resistive memory elements

Strengthening of Product Competitiveness through Digital Transformation (DX)

DX, which is expanding globally across all industries, is accelerating in the semiconductor and flat panel display production equipment industries as a method to resolve a variety of issues that are becoming more complex every year.

Image of DX Usage

* HVM: High Volume Manufacturing

Having positioned DX as an important part of the solution for the demand for further miniaturization and multi-layering of semiconductors, we formulated the TEL DX Vision in January 2021 to become “a global company where all employees drive enterprise value creation sustainably through activities such as value addition and efficiency improvements by leveraging digital technology.” We will make full use of a variety of digital enablers*, aim to resolve high-level problems via a cycle of 1) monitoring, 2) analysis and prediction, 3) control and 4) autonomy, and further strengthen the competitiveness of our production equipment.

* Enablers: People, organizations, factors and means that enable success and achievement of objectives

* xR: Extended Reality. Collective name for Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Substitutional Reality (SR).

Example Initiative

We use AI-based machine learning to adjust film coverage by plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PE-ALD)* in order to ensure film deposition with even thickness around the nanosheet structure. As a result of using AI to collect experimental data and optimize the analysis and process, we have established an optimal process for film deposition with high coverage in a short time without damage such as pattern collapse or deformation. Through the use of AI, the amount of wafers and energy used in development is minimized, and engineers are able to engage in high-value-added work without being bound by conventional ideas and practices.

* Plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PE-ALD): Atomic layer deposition is a thin-film deposition technology that uses continuous vapor-phase chemical reactions. PE-ALD is a method of applying plasma to activate a reaction on the substrate.

Comparison of exploration results of a film coverage process in a simulated nanosheet structure using a 300 mm PE-ALD system, conducted by a human engineer and machine learning respectively.

Support for Evolving Displays

In recent years, with the development of ICT, new work options that are not bound by time or place, such as remote work, have expanded. As a result, there have been dramatic changes in areas such as lifestyles and health awareness.

Amid this change, displays are expected to continue to develop and support people’s daily lives as an interface between people and data. For example, organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays have evolved to be lighter, thinner and with a higher image quality, and are expected to be used for computers and tablets as well as large screens for televisions and other devices. The key to this widespread use is the establishment of production technology using large substrates, and improving technology to control production defects as well as reducing environmental impact in the manufacturing process are important issues. Larger substrates will contribute to improved production efficiency and reduced manufacturing costs.

Our product lineup in the flat panel display (FPD) market includes the Impressio™ and the Betelex™ FPD etch/ash systems, the Exceliner™ FPD coater/developer and the Elius™ inkjet printing system for manufacturing OLED displays.

Impressio™ and Betelex™ use PICP™*¹, a plasma module with improved energy efficiency, reducing power consumption by up to 20% and achieving precise processing and stability during the mass production process. In addition, PICP™ Pro, which was released in 2021 and designed for high-definition displays, enables both yield improvements and mass production stability by reducing the generation of microscopic particles.

The Exceliner™, equipped with our original Air Floating Coater, permits higher throughput*² while maintaining excellent film uniformity and saving chemical consumption.

We will continue contributing to the further development of diverse display products, tackling effective technological innovation based on market needs such as improving productivity and yield and using energy and materials more efficiently.

*1 PICP™: A plasma module that produces extremely uniform high-density plasma on panel substrates
*2 Throughput: Processing ability and data transfer amount per unit of time