SAN FRANCISCO – When Applied Materials Inc. rolled out its next-generation, laser-based anneal system last year, there were fears among competitors that the company would further dominate the rapid thermal processing (RTP) equipment market.
Applied is already the share leader in the traditional RTP market. At that time, the company wanted to take share in the next-generation RTP market. RTP uses a system to heat wafers at high temperatures at fast speeds, which affects the electrical properties of a device.
Some believe that RTP could run out of gas, requiring a next-generation technology. Vendors are developing two rival and next-generation RTP technologies for the 45-nm node and beyond: flash lamp and laser. Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (DNS) and Mattson Technology Inc. are going after the flash-lamp market.
For some time, Ultratech Inc. has sold laser tools that compete against traditional RTP. And then, Applied entered the laser market.
Demand is strong for next-generation RTP right now. Ultratech, for example, is fully booked for its systems until the first quarter of 2011. But to date, the next-generation tools have not done away with traditional RTP.''I don’t think (traditional) RTP is going away,’’ said Arthur Zafiropoulo, chairman, chief executive and president of Ultratech.
But for next-generation devices, a new technology is required, he said in an interview at Semicon West last week. Ultratech’s first laser processing application provides solutions to the difficult challenge of fabricating ultra-shallow junction and highly activated source/drain contacts.
Recently, Ultratech rolled out a new version of the tool. That system is geared for next-generation chips at the 28- and 22-nm nodes, he said.
In fact, both DNS and Ultratech have made inroads into leading-edge chip makers. “DNS is our main competitor,’’ he said.
And has Applied taken over the world in the arena? ''We are concerned about all competitors,’’ but Applied has only been seen in ''limited applications,’’ he said.
At the time of its announcement, Applied said it is targeting one major application with the new laser technology: nickel silicide (NiSi). Targeted for creating the NiSi transistor contact layers in 45-nm and beyond logic chips, the laser-based system is said to enhance drive current and reduce gate leakage.
Meanwhile, Ultratech announced unaudited results for the three-month and six-month periods ended July 3, 2010. For the second quarter of fiscal 2010, Ultratech reported net sales of $31.6 million as compared to $18.6 million during the second quarter of fiscal 2009.
Ultratech's net income for the second quarter of 2010 was $3.6 million or $0.15 per share (diluted), as compared to a net loss of $0.5 million, or a net loss of $0.02 per share for the same quarter last year.
For the first six months of 2010, Ultratech reported net sales of $59.1 million compared to net sales of $44.3 million in the first six months of 2009. Ultratech reported net income of $5.6 million or $0.23 per share (diluted) during the first half of 2010, compared to a net loss of $0.3 million or a net loss of $0.01 per share for the first half of 2009.
For Q3, Ultratech projects that its sales will jump 15-to-20 percent. For 2010, it is expected to grow 35-to-40 percent.