Electronic Chemicals: Semiconductors, Silicon and IC Process Chemicals
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Published: September 2014
The electronics industry uses a broad range of highly sophisticated specialty chemicals in many processing steps in the manufacture of electronic components and products, in silicon wafers and integrated circuits, for packaging and printed circuit boards (PCBs), in the manufacture of compound semiconductors and optoelectronics, and in the production of flat panel display products. This report covers the major specialty chemicals consumed in the production of integrated circuits or silicon chips including silicon wafers, atmospheric and specialty gases, photoresists, ancillary chemicals, wet-processing chemicals, CMP slurries, thin film metals, copper plating chemicals, and new chemicals and precursor materials for low-k and high-k dielectrics.
The global market for IC (integrated circuit) process chemicals is expected to grow at an average annual rate of approximately 4–5% through 2019. In 2013, consumption of silicon wafers accounted for the largest share (49%) of total chemical consumption, followed by atmospheric and specialty gases (20%), ancillary chemicals (7%), photoresists (7%), CMP slurries and pads (7%), wet-processing chemicals (6%), thin film metals (2%) and others (2%).
The following pie chart shows estimated world consumption of IC process chemicals in 2014:
Growth in the consumption of IC process chemicals is driven by increases in installed fab capacity and processed silicon wafer surface area, as well as by more expensive chemicals consumed by the new technology. Increased technology efficiency provided by the semiconductor equipment industry is leading to lower material usage per silicon wafer surface area, while at the same time well-proven and mature product lines from photoresists, wet-processing chemicals, atmospheric gases, CMP slurries and sputtering targets experience severe price pressures.
The four largest silicon wafer producers shared 86% of the global market in 2013, in this order: Shin-Etsu Handotai (24%), Sumitomo Mitsubishi Silicon Corporation (SUMCO) (24%), Siltronic (21%) and MEMC (a subsidiary of SunEdison) (17%). The top tier companies have the financial strength to continue to invest in 300 mm and later in 450 mm wafer production.
Consumption of gases used in the semiconductor industry is expected to grow by approximately 4–5% on average annually through 2019. As semiconductor complexity increases, the number of process steps and number of layers grow as gas-phase etching and cleaning displace some wet processes.
Photoresist consumption will grow at an average annual rate of about 4–5% during 2013–2019. Mature technologies like g-line, i-line and 248 nm resists will show little or no growth, and 193 nm resist demand will grow through 2019. The photoresist market is dominated by Japanese companies led by JSR and Tokyo Ohka Kogyo with over a 20% share each.
Photoresist ancillaries include photoresist strippers and edge bead removers, developers and nonphotosensitive functional layers such as antireflective coatings, topcoats, hardmasks and underlayers. Consumption of ancillaries is expected to grow at approximately 4–5% annually through 2019, driven by the increasing need for new nonphotosensitive spin-on materials that form functional layers on the silicon wafer and facilitate pattern transfer in dry or immersion exposure systems for 193 nm lithography.
The market for CMP slurries with polishing pads is expected to grow by 3–4% annually on average through 2019. Demand for CMP slurries is driven by the continued aluminum-to-copper conversion of interconnects used in logic and memory devices and by technology node migrations to the 45 nm, 32 nm and 22 nm generations. Currently, about 50% of all CMP operations is for devices produced at design rules of 65 nm and below.
The market for wet-process chemicals is forecast to grow overall on average by approximately 3% per year during 2013–2019. Consumption of standard chemistries for the traditional wet-processing chemicals such as acids and bases, solvents, etchants and photoresist ancillaries will grow at a slower pace; ultrapure products will account for most of this growth while the standard electronic-grade market will show insignificant growth. The largest segments in wet-processing chemical consumption are H2O2, HF and related chemicals, H2SO4, IPA, NH4OH, HCl, H3PO4, HNO3 and ultrapure water. Because of the more difficult cleaning conditions for silicon wafers with smaller and deeper device geometries and tighter specifications for the critical particle size, consumption of advanced cleaning solutions is expected to rise at an above-average rate for post–copper CMP formulations and for post–plasma ash remover. Antireflective coatings are expected to grow at approximately 10% per year as a result of the increasing use of 193 nm lithography. Companies will continue to offer total chemical solutions that will include reprocessing of spent fluids, recycling and waste removal in addition to supplying material.
The global market for thin film metal materials for the semiconductor industry in 2013 is expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 4–5% from 2013 to 2019. By metal type and value, the market can be divided into the following main segments: titanium (29%), tantalum (25%), aluminum (20%) and copper (16%). Market shares and growth rates by value depend very much on the price development of the various metals. Because of the ongoing installation of 300 mm wafer fabs, the suppliers of sputtering targets are producing more 12-inch targets. Four companies—JX Nippon Mining & Metals, Praxair, Honeywell and Tosoh—dominate the market for sputtering targets.
Consumption of other IC process chemicals including low-k, high-k and copper plating chemicals is expected to grow at 3–4% annually during 2013–2019.
In 1998, about three-quarters of the world market for electronic chemicals was concentrated in the United States, Western Europe and Japan. This dominance rapidly eroded as the other nations of Asia emerged as producing regions, claiming a share of about 59% of the world consumption of IC process chemicals in 2013. This trend was fueled by the growing global consumer electronics market, the growing consumer electronics production industry in Asia and a strategy change of U.S., European and Japanese integrated device manufacturers, who turned to asset-light or fabless strategies and outsourced production to foundries in Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, China or Singapore.
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