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Lam’s precision selective etch tools are paving the way for the chip industry’s next great inflection

Tim Archer | President and CEO
February 9, 2022 | Technology

Over the past decade, the need for increasingly smaller, denser, more powerful chips has been driving semiconductor manufacturers to move away from planar structures in favor of increasingly complex three-dimensional (3D) structures. Why? Simply put, stacking elements vertically enables greater density.

Use of 3D architectures to support advanced logic and memory applications represents the next great inflection point for the semiconductor industry. Non-volatile memory reached this technology inflection first and Lam’s etch and deposition tools continue to be at the forefront of this innovation. Chipmakers are now aggressively working to migrate to gate all around (GAA) structures for logic in the next 12-24 months – and are setting their sights on 3D DRAM as well.

Today, GAA is widely seen as the de facto replacement for finFET for advanced logic devices, and a design that can support the most powerful processors on the planet for the next generation and beyond. In this modified transistor structure, the gate contacts the channel from all sides to enable continued scaling. The current-carrying capacity of GAA transistors is increased by stacking structures called nanosheets or nanowires vertically, with gate material wrapped around the channels. The nanosheet dimensions can be scaled so that transistors can be sized for the intended application.

GAA may be simple in concept, but these devices present significant challenges for semiconductor manufacturing. Some revolve around fabricating the structure; others involve new materials needed to achieve scaling targets. The primary construction challenges arise as a result of the complex structures being built with various layers that must be laid down and certain elements, such as SiGe, removed in successive steps – with atomic-level precision.

To meet and address these challenges, we believe the early approaches to selective etch are no longer sufficient – new processes and capabilities are necessary to build denser, taller, and more powerful structures. Selectivity has always been an important attribute of an etch process, however, creating the advanced 3D architectures that can power the digital technologies and devices of tomorrow requires ultra-high selectivity and precision at the atomic scale to produce exceptionally complex transistor structures.

Once again, Lam has been innovating – helping to pave the way for the chip industry to make the next leap in 3D architectures. Working closely with our customers, we have created a new suite of cutting-edge selective etch tools that can support the development of next-generation advanced logic devices – and soon, advanced memory applications like 3D DRAM. You can learn more about them here.

We are proud to be leading the 3D inflection in partnership with our customers, and in turn, moving society forward through the power of semiconductor technologies that create a smarter, more connected world.


Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This article contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements include any statements that are not statements of historical fact, including statements regarding the drivers of demand in the semiconductor industry, the capabilities and competitive positioning of Lam’s products, trends in and demand for technologies, the plans and technology roadmaps of chipmakers, and the requirements for creating the next generation of architectures. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations expressed, including the risks and uncertainties described in our filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including specifically the Risk Factors described in our annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. 

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