SAN FRANCISCO—Chip equipment vendor Applied Materials Inc. Wednesday (June 27) launched a dielectric etch system targeted specifically for three-dimensional memory architectures.
Several NAND vendors have established pilot lines for building NAND devices with vertically integrated, 3-D cell strings, according to Arvind Sankaran, senior product manager at Applied. The company expects some NAND vendors to be in volume production on 3-D NAND devices beginning sometime next year, he said.
"All of the leading memory manufacturers are looking into migrating to 3-D NAND," Sankaran said. "It's inevitable. It has to be done sooner or later."
Applied (Santa Clara, Calif.) said its Centura Avatar dielectric etch system uses a proprietary plasma source to address the challenges associated with etching deep, narrow features required for 3-D NAND production. According to Sankaran, the plasma source is the result of years of source development within Applied.
The Avatar system was newly designed from the ground up, according to the company. Applied said it has 30 Avatar chambers already out in the field, including some in use in NAND vendor pilot lines.
According to Applied, the Avatar system can etch holes and trenches in complex film stacks with aspect ratios as high as 80:1—eight times deeper, relatively speaking, than the Washington Monument is high. The tool also performs simultaneous etching of features with greatly varying depths, a critical requirement in fabricating the "staircase" contact structures that connect each layer of memory cells to the outside world, Applied said.
"Cumulatively, we are looking at a very, very complex set of challenges not seen before," Sankaran said. "None of the etchers available on the market are going to address this."