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The challenge

The global semiconductor industry shipped 1.15 trillion semiconductor units in 2021 totalling sales of nearly US$556 billion and projected to reach sales of over US$600 billion in 2022. Companies need to constantly innovate to keep pace with the growing demand for specialised electronic devices. KLA Corporation is a global leader in process control and process enabling solutions, and its SPTS division is a leading supplier of wafer processing equipment for the semiconductor and related industries. SPTS is collaborating with Swansea University’s chemistry and engineering departments to innovate, improve and apply their etch and deposition technologies for a range of applications from renewable power generation, electric or autonomous vehicles, 5G communications, biomedical devices, and artificial intelligence.

The method

Working with Prof Owen Guy and his team for over a decade has helped KLA’s SPTS division develop new processes in the semiconductor, packaging, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and healthcare sectors. Examples of these new technologies include new molecular vapor deposition processes for specialized thin film coatings, optimized SiC etch profiles for improved power devices and silicon etch technology for microfluidic devices. Over the years, SPTS has closely collaborated with Swansea University and other industrial, research and academic partners in the UK and overseas on a number of projects.

The impact

KLA has been able to diversify their application portfolio and process knowledge, allowing them to extend into new markets and increase revenue from these new applications. As a result of the research, KLA became an anchor company in the new Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) which is due to come on stream in September 2022 on the Bay Campus in Swansea University. CISM will allow KLA (and other regional semiconductor industry partners) to expand its research capacity for the next generation semiconductors. The impact of this research here in Wales will benefit KLA’s customers across the world in terms of enabling the development and cost-effective high volume manufacturing of faster, more reliable, and energy-efficient electronic chips which will be inserted into the electronic products we all use every day.

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