SAN JOSE, Calif.—Why did Lam Research, a semiconductor fab equipment supplier, acquire Coventor, a software house hawking software to design microelectromechanical system (MEMS) chips and sub-10 nanometer semiconductors such as 3D finFETs?
Analysts fully expected for Coventor to be absorbed by Lam Research, only to surface as a Lam software offering. But at SEMI's MEMS & Sensor Executive Congress 2017 (MSEC) here the companies reported that they are staying in separate headquarters, depending more the synergy of co-designing hardware for software and visa versa to give them a competitive edge over the competition.
"Coventor started out as a MEMS design software company, focused on the design of micron sized 3D structures on MEMS chips," Stephen Breit, Coventor's vice president of MEMS operations, told EE Times at MSEC. "But now a significant share of our business is designing nanometer-sized 3D semiconductors, mainly supporting the previously unserved process integration and development market."
Likewise, Lam has been designing equipment for MEMS fabs, but is also deeply committed to the sub-10 nanometer semiconductor fab equipment market. Even though Coventor is maintaining its separate facility — and will also sell to Lam's competitors — working together has streamlined the development process, the companies claim.
A Lam Research high-performance silicon etch system.
"Lam is an established supplier of manufacturing equipment used to fabricate MEMS, especially leading edge inertial sensors and RF MEMS devices. Now, as the industry has become more interested in piezoelectric and piezo-resistive devices, such as fingerprint sensors, microphones and resonators, our technologies have evolved to meet these new process requirements" said Michelle Bourke, a strategic marketing director at Lam.
"Outside of our etch technologies, we also offer a range of deposition solutions for MEMS, as well as silicon wafer thinning and backside decontamination through our single wafer clean group," Bourke said.
Both Lam and Coventor are benefiting from the relationship, with each drawing on the other's hardware/software expertise (respectively) to improve performance, fab-to-test cycle time and shrinking new product development time. Customers using Lam hardware and Coventor software will also benefit from improved MEMS design-for-manufacturing capabilities, according to the companies.
"Together we bring all the manufacturing variables into the design process and as a result can drastically reduce development time," said Breit. "I call it a one plus one equals three proposition."
CoventorMP MEMS Platform
CoventorMP development cycle, from parametric design entry with its MEMS+ layout and CoventorWare materials and process tools, to modeling and simulation at the device-level, system-level (with the help of a direct interface to Matlab) and circuit level (with the help of a direct interface to Cadence).
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times