TAIPEI — Linde Group, one of the world’s largest suppliers of specialty gases for the semiconductor industry, has established what it says will be a world-leading R&D facility in Taiwan.
The company has invested approximately $5.6 million to establish the new R&D Center for the Asia Pacific region with a state-of-the-art analytical and product development laboratory in the central-island city of Taichung. Linde has signed a collaboration agreement with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which will contribute 10 of its personnel as part of the project.
Linde will be the first among competitors such as Praxair, Air Liquide and Air Products to set up an R&D facility in Taiwan, which supplies nearly a quarter of the world’s chip production. Linde expects Asia to account for about 70 percent of its electronics business in the future.
“Taiwan is our main electronics lab for the whole world now,” said Carl Jackson, Linde’s Head of Electronics Technology & Innovation in an interview with EE Times. “Our most important customers are either here or not far from here.”
The initial focus for the facility will be on analysis, according to Jackson. As technology nodes get smaller and more complex, the company sees a need to measure gas impurities and other metrics in completely new ways.
In the future, Linde will look at the possibility of doing synthesis and purification of gases in Taiwan.
“We want to carve out this reputation as the place to go for the highest quality gas,” Jackson says.
Looking at China
Linde, which provides gases to manufacturers in a wide range of industries, is also looking forward to becoming a major supplier of gases to chipmakers in China.
The company is confident that the semiconductor industry will ramp up in China, but arriving at that destination will require some “pain”, according to Jackson. Some forecasts calling for a rapid rise in China’s semiconductor industry by 2020 may be overly optimistic, he says.
“Are we banking and projecting in our mid-term planning that all these fabs in China will be on-stream, ramped and at full yield by these dates? No.”
Even so, the company is preparing for takeoff.
“There will be a big investment in China’s special gases infrastructure, and I can foresee a day when Linde sets up and electronics R&D center in China. It could be in the next five years.”
One of China’s chipmakers that Jackson is particularly impressed with is Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC).
“SMIC look to me to be a very competent operation,” according to Jackson. “They have people who know what to do technically. The new companies are more difficult to say.”
—Alan Patterson covers the semiconductor industry for EE Times. He is based in Taiwan.