The semiconductor industry is forecasted to achieve a 6% to 8% annual growth rate over the next few years, allowing it to become a $1 trillion industry by 2030 . Unfortunately, numerous roadblocks continue to stifle the industry’s growth, including fragmented capabilities across markets, steep investments with delayed returns, contamination risks, and more.
Semiconductor production with cluster systems can resolve many of the problems, allowing manufacturing industries to meet the growing demand rates in an efficient, lower-cost, higher-yielding way. PVD cluster systems streamline the manufacturing process for large-scale materials production.
Why Are Cluster Systems Used in Semiconductor Production?
What Are Cluster Systems?
To understand cluster systems, let’s start with the basics.
Physical vapour deposition (PVD) is a physical deposition process typically used to create metal vapour. The metal vapour can be deposited on electrically conductive materials as metal coatings. The process transforms a source material into a vapour and deposits it onto a substrate.
PVD systems are used in thin-film semiconductor production to deposit materials onto substrates. PVD processes require careful vacuum sealing and ideal conditions to protect the adhesive surfaces and conductivity of the materials. Handling samples one by one is not only time-consuming but higher risk.
PVD cluster systems combine multiple PVD chambers into one advanced system so manufacturing facilities can automate transfers between units without breaching the vacuum seal. Semiconductor manufacturing clusters can be traced back to the physical clustering concept, in which facilities develop around one another to reduce operating costs, environmental impacts, and resource challenges. PVD clustering blossomed from similar goals, attempting to reduce contamination risks while improving efficiency, though on a more precise, product-focused scale.
Precision and Efficiency
Cluster systems can increase semiconductor manufacturing accuracy through automation . The solution automates transfers between samples, offering highly accurate results for leading-edge semiconductors. As a result, the production process can become far more time-efficient.
Any manual errors in typical processing can lead to significant delays and financial burdens. Clustering can provide critical financial support to facilities by preventing errors and streamlining efficiency.
Scalability and Flexibility
With the semiconductor industry evolving rapidly, manufacturing facilities need flexibility and scalability to keep up with the latest trends. The top five semiconductor companies in the world use cutting-edge technology to achieve their $85 to $10.9 billion annual profit levels.
For manufacturing facilities to survive in this competitive landscape, they must adopt scalable, flexible thin-film deposition system solutions that can meet varying production demands.
Semiconductor production with cluster systems provides ideal flexibility because the system can contain different types or classes of materials at once while preventing cross-contamination. For example, facilities could place metals and organics inside the system while preventing any air exposure.
The cluster system solution can also separate the different stages of thin-film processing. Each chamber can contain its own stage, such as an etching and cleaning chamber, deposition chamber, and characterisation chamber. Semiconductor fabrication and chip manufacturing industries can use stage separation for ideal flexibility.
The modular nature of cluster solutions offers endless expansion opportunities as well. Chambers can be connected together for air-tight vacuum seal transfers in the cluster system. As the manufacturing facility grows, more chambers can be connected in a cluster system, offering true scalability.
Semiconductor production requires a contaminant-free environment so that conductivity can occur without any barriers, pinholes, improper reactions, or other issues. Achieving this clean environment at scale isn’t always easy, though.
Oxide can often form on the sample surface when exposed to the atmosphere. When this occurs, a film can form, blocking the natural barrier and imposing on the film’s conductivity and adhesion. Any contamination, whether it be a few nanometers from oxidation or a surface irregularity, can reduce the sample’s quality, longevity, and functionality.
Cluster systems reduce contamination risks by sealing the environment and minimising exposure to the atmosphere and other contaminants. The automated substrate transfer mechanism prevents the need for breaking vacuum seals. Facilities using cluster systems can see reduced contamination risks and higher outputs.
The Future of Cluster Systems in Semiconductor Production
Innovations and advancements in cluster system designs revolve around improving automation in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. The industry’s largest pain point tends to be a lack of automation between siloed systems that cannot communicate with one another. One emerging trend identified by numerous researchers is the concept of automation and integration between systems within the industry, potentially through the use of AI technology and data mining  .
Despite emerging solutions solving some of the industry’s roadblocks, semiconductor manufacturers still face numerous challenges. To start, no region has the end-to-end capabilities to complete all design and manufacturing processes, meaning everything is still highly fragmented.
As new product demands arise, so will new materials and environmental concerns. With the industry expanding at a fast rate, it will quickly need to consolidate its impacts, streamline operations, and optimise equipment throughput . PVD cluster systems are one method of reducing contamination and improving efficiency in manufacturing.
How Korvus Technology Fits In
At Korvus Technology, we manufacture R&D PVD cluster systems designed to help semiconductor manufacturing research their processes in a flexible, efficient, and precise way. Our solution offers a unique combination of user control and customisation.
Contact Korvus Technology today to learn more about our cluster systems and discuss your needs.
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