Dr. Zhibiao Mao, Patterning Department Manager at Huali Microelectronics Corporation (HLMC), shared an illuminating perspective of the Chinese IC industry at the Nikon symposium. He discussed the fact that IC production in China has historically represented a very small portion of the total market. While the IC market in China was roughly $139B in 2016, only $29B (~4%) was produced in China (Figure 1A). Mao shared an IC Insights table summarizing the Three Phases of China’s IC Industry Strategy. That table characterized Phase 1: late 1990s – early 2000s, and Phase 2: early 2000s - mid 2000s, as having been unsuccessful. Phase 3, which is underway currently, is focusing on efforts to build a strong China-based IC supplier/manufacturer base with startups, acquisitions, and mergers. Its success is to be determined (Figure 1B).
He further highlighted that a substantial ($22.5B) nationwide IC investment seed fund was established in China in October 2014. It operates under a corporate system and is being managed based on a market driven approach. The fund plans to attract private and foreign investors, and will invest in chip-making production, design, equipment, materials, mergers and acquisitions, etc. In addition, within the last year there have been a number of other local IC industry investment seed funds totaling more than $30B directed towards these IC production/growth efforts.
Mao cited SEMI’s November 2016 World Fab Forecast report, which predicts an expansion wave in China and shows many new facilities and lines forecast to start operation in 2018 (Figure 2A). He noted there are currently twenty 8” fabs and ten 12” fabs in mainland China, and reported that it is expected that 8” capacity will increase 36% and 12” capacity will increase 132% in the next few years (Figure 2B). Founded in 2010, with headquarters in Shanghai, HLMC is a pure-play 300 mm foundry. They offer turnkey services for 55 nm ~ 28 nm technology nodes. Mao reported that new HLMC fabs will be built in the coming years with the earliest new capacity to be added in 2018.
Transitioning to discussion of lithography advances at HLMC, Mao detailed a collaborative program between HLMC, Nikon, and Mentor Graphics. The program focused on tool performance matching, optical proximity error (OPE) matching, and lithography process matching to seamlessly mix an NSR-S630D scanner with other immersion systems. The objective was to achieve equivalent or better yield with minimum changes within the fab. Mao described how coupling process-aware EDA solutions with scanner-aware EDA solutions and process-dedicated tool settings provides the optimum real-world results (Figure 3A).
Mao reported that utilizing the Mentor Graphics pxSMO flow coupled with the Nikon Intelligent Illuminator yielded significant improvements to the HLMC process window. The evaluated process’ depth of focus (DOF) was improved by 10% and a 3% improvement in DOF at 5% exposure latitude was achieved (Figure 3B). The team also utilized Nikon OPE Master to successfully match OPE on multiple layers with the NSR-S630D immersion scanner, and validated yield matching performance as well (Figure 4A).
Mao conveyed great optimism regarding foundry business growth in China and the new expansion wave. He also reiterated HLMC’s manufacturing capabilities and plans for additional capacity. In his closing (Figure 4B), Mao expressed satisfaction with the NSR-S630D matching/yield performance, as well as the successful collaboration program with Nikon and Mentor Graphics.