Collaborate to build the material platform
[Semicon Korea 2019 Exhibitor]
SK Materials diversifies its semiconductor specialty materials business. With the expansion of the demand, SK Materials made investments in facility expansion, industrial gas, precursors, and etch gases, and it has recently entered the high-function wet chemical business. Wet chemical is one of the semiconductor pre-processing materials. As the number of 3D NAND flash laminates increases, the etch process has become important, and the role of high selectivity non-phosphorous (HSN), the key material, has increased. The company develops and sells related products with LTCAM, a semiconductor materials and equipment company.
Last year's results were KRW 512.3 billion in sales and KRW 147.7 billion in operating profit. It is the highest ever in SK Material’s history. For five years, the sales and operating profit grew at a CAGR of 28% and 113%, respectively. As the business expands, 68 people were hired in 2016 and 226 people in 2017. As of November 2018, 872 employees are working in the company plus subsidiaries.
A high-performance wet chemical is suitable for TANOS (TANOS:Ta/AlO(Oxide)/Nitride/Oxide/Si), one of the 3D NAND flash device technologies. Tanos uses tantalum (Ta) instead of silicon on the top surface of a SONOS (SONOS: Si/MTO(Oxide)/Nitride/Oxide/Si) device that stores insulating film data. The cell is deposited and then the metal gate (Gate Last) is finally formed in the nitride.
This method is essential for Charge Trap Flash (CTF) technology. CTF is a technique for reducing inter-cell interference and stores charge on the insulator. Highly functional wet chemicals such as high selectivity acids act to effectively separate nitrides. It is a special material that should be used unconditionally if you make 3D NAND flash with CTF.
SK Materials succeeded in producing NF3 (nitrogen trifluoride) for the first time in Korea. It is the number one producer of NF3 and tungsten hexafluoride (WF6) in the world. Among them, NF3 serves to clean the inside of the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) equipment chamber. After the thin film is deposited on the wafer, it reacts with impurities such as silicon dioxide (Sio2) or silicon nitride (Si3N4) and cleans the inside with silicon fluoride (SiF4). With the growing demand for NF3, the company will invest KRW 22.8 billion, expanding the production from 10,600 tons annually to 12,100 tons by the end of the year.
"The downstream company is demanding a stable supply of gas and high-purity deposition gas with higher cleaning power for advanced micro-fabrication and next-generation semiconductor production,” said the company’s personnel. It was also explained that “SK Materials is able to respond to various process and production facilities. We are able to supply products to Asia, Europe, and the Americas where the semiconductor industries are concentrated."
Other specialty materials and related services such as specialty gas (ESG), precursors, and other related services are among the strengths of SK Materials. SK Tri-chem (Tri-chemical joint venture in Japan), which produces and sells zirconium (Zr) and silicon (Si) precursors, the main materials for DRAM and 3D NAND flash semiconductors. It is expanding its various gas and materials businesses by acquiring SK Air Gas to produce and sell industrial gas and establishing SK Showa Denko with Showa Denko in Japan that produces and sells carbon and fluorine (CF) etch gases.
A company official said, "Through the Gas & IT materials Total Solution Provider, we will build the materials platform based on sharing and collaboration with suppliers such as raw materials and logistics to preemptively grasp customer needs and market trends." He added, "We will supply high-quality products in a stable manner depending on market demand growth and conditions."