X-rays are becoming an essential medical examination in…

Bloomberg — Japanese medical equipment and factory automation maker Omron Corp. (6645) has set its eyes on the juicy chip manufacturing equipment market to enhance its growth for the future.

The electronics company, which is based in Kyoto, will present in spring an The VT-X950 device will generate three-dimensional images of the chipss with sufficient resolution to identify defects at the nanometer scale 1, which represents an advance of at least one generation compared to today’s most advanced silicon manufacturing techniques.

Because the scans only take thirty seconds each, the chipmaker can monitor production in near real time and make adjustments and rectifications more efficiently. The percentage of fault-free chips produced with each silicon wafer is an indicator highly valued by manufacturers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. as it influences each company’s costs and the speed with which they fulfill their customers’ orders. .

X-rays are becoming an essential medical test in chip manufacturingAn Omron VT-X750 x-ray scanner at the company’s Ayabe factory in Kyoto.(Photographer: Kentaro Takahashi//Kentaro Takahashi)

“The demand trend in the semiconductor sector is to produce a greater diversity of chips in smaller batches, something that would not be economically feasible without CT scanning performed in real time,” he explained during an interview. Kazuhisa Shibuyageneral manager of inspection systems at Omron.

CT, or computed tomography, It is a pillar of medical diagnosis and has also become an essential quality control tool in chip manufacturing. Omron, founded ninety years ago and earning more than half of its 876 billion yen ($5.9 billion) annual revenue from factory automation products, first entered the semiconductor supply chain in 2012 with the launch of its VT-X900. That’s still a small part of your business, largely limited to a few major chipmakers, Shibuya said.

The 55-year-old official is confident that demand will grow as chips become increasingly complex and expensive to manufacture. In an area of ​​only a few square centimeters, manufacturers need to write metal lines that are thinner than a human hair and deposit thousands of nanoscale solder bumps. New techniques for stacking chips in three-dimensional structures, such as the all-in-one architectures from TSMC and Samsung, increase precision requirements.

“The need for CT scans as part of the semiconductor manufacturing process is urgent,” said the Omdia analyst Akira Minamikawa. “As the industry pursues chiplet and die shrink technology, the level of bonding technology required has skyrocketed, especially in recent years.”

X-rays are becoming an essential medical test in chip manufacturingInside the X-ray machine, VT-X750 scanner.(Photographer: Kentaro Takahashi//Kentaro Takahashi)

The most demanded chips today, the artificial intelligence accelerators next-generation devices from Nvidia Corp. (NVDA), are hampered by TSMC’s ability to produce the advanced packaging to enclose them. Quality control and performance improvement become paramount in such circumstances, as a small misalignment can cause chips selling for tens of thousands of dollars to become worthless. Custom-made X-ray chips can help detect imperfections and allow workers to adjust the process as necessary.

Sony Group Corp.’s (6758) stock price fell 4.7% earlier this month after the company said it is having trouble mass producing its new sensor of camera for smartphones, which ended up reducing the company’s operating profit outlook by 15%.

Traditionally, chipmakers have relied on so-called function tests to see if a device will work as designed. CT has also been used, but at a much slower pace: collect sample units from production lines for X-ray checks in a separate room, which can take up to an hour each. The need for faster inspection machines will increase dramatically, according to Hideki Yasuda, analyst at Toyo Securities. The cost of manufacturing cutting-edge chips will require greater real-time monitoring to minimize silicon waste, she said.

Omron CT Scanners are the only realistic option for chip manufacturers install them on their assembly lines, Shibuya said, since no other machine can produce high-quality CT images in real time. The latest model cuts scanning time in half compared to Omron’s previous model.

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