Katherine Derbyshire, Thin Film Manufacturing's founder, is a respected industry commentator and a contributing editor of Semiconductor Magazine. Here's a sample of recent publications:

2001 2002 2003


Success or failure is up to automation -- Semiconductor Manufacturing Magazine, June 2003

After years of hard work by SEMI and other organizations, the 300 mm fab automation standards are essentially complete. These documents define everything from the mechanism for opening a FOUP (front-opening unified pod) to software messages, providing essential guidelines for fully automated fabs and their suppliers. Still, Asyst Technologies director of marketing Michael Brain explained, a standard is not a specification. Though standards give fabs and equipment suppliers a common language, designers still must connect the components to form a working production line.

Lithography costs challenge Moore's Law -- Semiconductor Manufacturing Magazine, April 2003

Observers are beginning to worry that the technical limits of optical lithography may not matter. Moore's Law, the observation that transistor density doubles every 18-24 months at constant cost, may run aground on the rock of economics, not technology. The next three device generations appear to be technically feasible, but few companies can afford them. As the IC industry struggles through the worst downturn in its history, rising manufacturing costs and weak consumer demand are squeezing profit margins and development budgets. Some companies are beginning to wonder if the benefits of keeping up justify the costs.

The future of organic semiconductors -- Pira International

Ever since 1990, when researchers at Cambridge University demonstrated electroluminescence in poly(para-phenylene vinylene) (PPV), organic semiconductors have attracted research dollars, venture investments, and even Nobel prizes. They have not, however, achieved significant product sales until very recently. In the last year or two, organic semiconductors have begun to appear in commercial products. The technology appears poised for rapid growth.

Information growth increases mask cost -- Semiconductor Magazine, March 2003

How much is a photomask worth? The question is becoming more important as resolution enhancements increase the complexity and cost of mask manufacturing. Chip manufacturers complain that the mask's share of the total process cost is climbing rapidly, while mask manufacturers explain that money to improve their infrastructure has to come from somewhere.

Thermal processes struggle to achieve ideal devices -- Semiconductor Magazine, February 2003

As feature sizes shrink, the differences between idealized transistors in textbooks and real integrated circuits become more pronounced. Dielectrics allow leakage current. Junction edges blur. Contacts consume the underlying silicon. Thermal processes help define the interfaces between regions and layers. They supply essential energy for oxidation, dopant activation, and other steps, but can also drive diffusion and defect formation. Process engineers face a constant tradeoff between minimizing unwanted atomic movement and supplying enough energy to make the process work.

Failure analysis for improved yield -- Semiconductor Magazine, January 2003

Failure analysis was once limited to chips for military and aerospace applications, which often have extensive testing and certification requirements. As general purpose chips become more valuable and the cost of field returns increases, more chip and system manufacturers are turning to failure analysis as the last line of defense against poor performance. A properly conducted failure analysis can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in field returns, lost production, and customer good will.

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Constructing Cleaner Cleanrooms -- Semiconductor Magazine, December 2002

The purpose of a cleanroom is simple: to protect process wafers from all forms of contamination. Actually achieving that goal is not so simple. Humans, automation equipment and even the process itself introduce a steady stream of particles and chemical contaminants.

Advanced Processes Rely On Advanced Software -- Semiconductor Magazine, November 2002

Yield experts who’ve been in the semiconductor industry for more than a few years may remember a Golden Age, roughly between the half-micron and quarter-micron generations. The industry had eradicated its most serious “yield killers” with protocols for clean manufacturing, purity standards for source chemicals, and tight specifications for incoming wafers. Mature process steps resulted in stable process flows. Particles from a few known sources caused most yield excursions. Like most Golden Ages, this one looks better in retrospect than it did at the time. Semiconductor manufacturing has never been easy. Still, managing yield is more difficult now than it has ever been.

No Rest for Resists -- Semiconductor Magazine, October 2002

Photoresist gives the aerial image tangible reality. Where photons strike the resist, it becomes soluble in developer. The reaction is simple in concept, but fraught with complications. A production-worthy photoresist is a balance between optical, physical and chemical properties. Each new device generation changes the balance; each new wavelength may force chemists to start over again.

Design and Manufacturing -- Semiconductor Magazine, August 2002

Integrated circuit designers and manufacturers need each other. Without designs, the fab sits idle. Without manufacturing, the design is merely a theoretical construct. Both must work together to deliver functioning circuits in a timely manner.

Making CMP Work -- Semiconductor Magazine, July 2002

When it first appeared on the scene, process engineers greeted chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) with shock and derision. Mechanical grinding with a particle-laden slurry, mere microns away from the wafer's exquisitely polished surface, was nothing short of heresy. Fab managers who had religiously shunned every possible particle source now had to tolerate unimaginable levels of filth. Just a few short years later, CMP now contributes to every layer, from transistor fabrication to final metallization.

Building a Fab – It's All About Tradeoffs -- Semiconductor Magazine, June 2002

A new fab represents an enormous investment of time, money and corporate resources. The success or failure of an entire company can depend on that fab's return on the investment. Maximizing ROI requires a careful balance of many different factors, from the initial fab design to the production ramp phase.

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Displays Have Bright Future, Many Storm Clouds -- Semiconductor Magazine, May 2002

From the status indicators on an automotive dashboard to the photorealistic rendering offered by high-end laptops, flat panel displays (FPDs) are an essential component of portable electronic systems. As portable systems proliferated in 1999 and 2000, active matrix liquid crystal display (AM-LCD) sales, the largest segment of the display market, surged. According to iSuppli's Joseph Castellano, sales jumped from around US$10 billion in 1998 to almost US$17 billion in 2000, before falling back below the US$15 billion level in 2001.

Are Plastics the Future of Electronics? -- Semiconductor Magazine, April 2002

In 1977, Hideki Shirakawa, Alan Heeger, Alan MacDiarmid and co-workers launched enormous new interest in conducting polymers when they demonstrated that halogen-doped polyacetylene had conductivity 109 times greater than the undoped material. Since that discovery, which earned the three scientists the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, conducting polymers have found applications ranging from color-changing coatings for windows to antistatic packaging for electronic components.

Prospects Bright for Optoelectronics -- Semiconductor Magazine, March 2002

The largest optoelectronic fabs now process volumes comparable to mid-size silicon fabs. Optoelectronic devices, once purchased primarily by cost-insensitive customers like the military, are making their way into the extremely cost-sensitive consumer electronics space. Device manufacturers are shifting away from research and development-oriented emphasis on device physics to focus on yield, cost and process stability.

Sub-100 nm Transistors Defy Conventional Wisdom -- Semiconductor Magazine, February 2002

The steady march of Moore's Law owes a great deal to a happy accident of device physics: smaller transistors run faster, consume less power and are less expensive to manufacture. In sub-100 nm transistors, however, higher speed and lower power consumption no longer go hand in hand. Improvements in one may threaten the other, and power consumption is proving especially difficult to scale.

Still Waiting for Low-k Dielectrics -- Semiconductor Magazine, January 2002

Optical lithography has defied predictions of its demise for more than two decades. Silicon dioxide dielectrics haven't yet achieved such Rasputin-like resiliency, but they haven't been replaced yet, either. The 2001 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), released in late November, pushes the need for effective dielectric constants (k) below 3.0 back to the 90 nm technology node. The 1997 Roadmap predicted that such low-k materials would be needed for the 180 nm node.

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Metrology Goes High Profile -- Semiconductor Magazine, December 2001

Metrology-enabled processes like copper interconnects and sub-resolution lithography require unprecedented dependence on automated control systems. As feature sizes shrink and fabs push new and existing equipment to its limits, managers are finding that they have no choice but to make the investment.

Trends in Lithography -- Electronics Bulletin, November 2001

A conversation about trends in lithography with interviewer Tom Adams. The magazine, based in Hong Kong, includes both English and Chinese versions, but neither appears to be online.

Copper Interconnects Face Fab Realities -- Semiconductor Magazine, November 2001

AMD's ambitious copper program has delivered dramatic microprocessor performance gains and allowed the company to take significant market share away from archrival Intel, but few other companies have achieved similar successes. As technology continues to advance, more and more manufacturers will confront copper manufacturing issues.

Future Technology: Quantum Computing -- Semiconductor Magazine, October 2001

Quantum computing offers potential solutions to problems that are intractable for conventional computers. Actually realizing a quantum computer, however, is fiendishly difficult. While no immediate breakthroughs are apparent, quantum computers may be part of later steps on various roadmaps to achieve ever-higher computational throughput in smaller spaces.

Next-Generation Lithography: Beyond 100 nm -- Semiconductor Magazine, September 2001

The end of optical lithography has been predicted before. As one observer at this year's SPIE Microlithography Conference noted, "the end" has been about seven years away for the last 20 years. Still, the industry consensus seems to be that this time the end really is in sight.

Unscrambling Tool Interfaces -- Semiconductor Magazine, August 2001

Discussions of tool connectivity often resemble alphabet soup: SECS, GEM, XML, OBEM, E87 and on and on. The underlying issues are often lost in arguments about definitions and confusion about terminology. This article attempts to explain why tool connectivity is important, why it's difficult, and what fabs and their suppliers can do about it.

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