Chip’s toxic waste abatement systems grew 15% in 2019

semi
Sales of toxic waste abatement systems sold to chipmakers grew 15% in 2019 as smaller chip processes became more popular and Extreme Ultraciolet LIthography was put to use. (Pixabay)

As microchip makers rely on smaller and smaller manufacturing processes-- down to 7 nm and even smaller-- more abatement subsystems are required to treat toxic waste hydrocarbon contamination that is generated.

That need, in turn, has led to increased sales of abatement systems.  In 2019, abatement system sales jumped 15.6%, while overall critical subsystem revenues dropped by 10.6%, according to research by VLSI Research Europe. 

The abatement system market was $592 million in 2019, a record.  That trend favoring abatement systems is expected to remain strong through 2020, VLSI Europe said.

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Toxic waste products are generated during semi manufacturing, mainly from the deposition and etching phases of production, VLSI Europe analyst Julian West wrote in a SEMI blog on Monday .

Increased investments in 7nm technology helped abatements sales reach record highs in 2019, West said.   That manufacturing process requires Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EVUL) and more deposition and etching steps, which all require abatement.  Abatement is often the first equipment purchased, which has helped abatement suppliers maintain sales through a downturn year.

While 2019 was down for memory chip, capex for advanced logic chips made often in a 7nm process increased by nearly 25%, West said.  EVUL is important in high-volume manufacturing to increase wafer throughput.  Abatement suppliers have had to develop products that ensure 100% uptime in fabs by continually treating effluent from EUVL tools. By comparison, traditional applications for abatement, deposition and etch have regularly scheduled downtime and maintenance because of their harsh processes, West said.  The numbers of EUV tools shipped each year is relatively low but growing.  Also, abatement subsystems are costly.

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