SAN JOSE, Calif. The wet clean IC-equipment market is heating up, as Applied Materials Inc. and Lam Research Corp. are reportedly entering the crowded fray.
Applied on Monday (June 28) announced that it had acquired wet clean technology from SCP Global Technology Inc. for an undisclosed price. The move represents SCP's transition from the wet clean tool business to a service provider.
Under the terms, Applied (Santa Clara, Calif.) will acquire SCP's single-wafer, HF-last immersion technology and Marangoni clean/dry intellectual property. Marangoni clean/dry technology is aimed for 65-nm and below wet clean processing (see June 28 story).
In 2002, Applied attempted to turn the wafer cleaning equipment business upside down, by entering this market with a single-wafer system for use in advanced chip production.
"Applied entered this market in 2002 with its Oasis wet clean product that addresses front end of line applications, but it has not gained much customer traction," said C. William Lu, an analyst with investment banking firm Piper Jaffray (Minneapolis). "We (also) believe Lam Research is also likely to enter this market with a new integrated wet clean product in the near future."
Dainippon Screen (DNS), SEZ, and Tokyo Electron Ltd. are the major players in the wet clean tool market, according to Lu.
Applied remains the wild card in the arena. "We believe Applied is only buying the technology as SCP Global is not a strong player in the single wafer clean market and its overall market share in wet clean has dropped significantly from 11 percent in 2003 to 4.3 percent in 2004," he said.
Still, the overall market is critical for chip production. "Single wafer wet clean is a growing market with more than $400 million in sales in 2004, driven by increasing demand for copper/low-k backend of line applications," he said. "The technology challenges for copper/low-k cleaning have moved the market from commodity to one that is more technology-driven," he said.