Faced with everything from an unprecedented disaster last March to the sharp appreciation of the yen, domestic industries had to deal with tougher conditions than ever before in 2011. The semiconductor industry had a rough ride just like everyone else, as the impact of the earthquake threatened supplies of key devices. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of individual manufacturers however, and support from all over the world, the industry is mounting a quick recovery. As something of a side effect, 2011 was also a year that reaffirmed the important role that Japanese semiconductors have to play in the global supply chain. The year was rounded off with the 35th SEMICON Japan at Makuhari Messe in December. With over 800 of country's finest companies coming together under one roof, it was the ideal opportunity to demonstrate the resilience of Japan's semiconductor and related industries and prove that they are still alive and kicking. Katsuhiko Sakai, who spearheaded the SEMICON Japan 2011 exhibit on behalf of Hitachi High-Technologies, one of the major companies participating in the event, looks back at this year's exhibition and talks to us about the future of the semiconductor industry.
Strategic Business Planning Division
Electronic Device Systems Business Group
Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation
Updated January 2012
Promoting sustainable development in the semiconductor industry
What themes did you have in mind for SEMICON Japan 2011?
This year marked the 35th SEMICON Japan exhibition. As the domestic semiconductor industry has continued to grow and develop during that time, the Hitachi Group* has taken part in and exhibited at the event every year since the first SEMICON Japan, in an effort to raise awareness of our front- and back-end semiconductor manufacturing equipment, inspection, measurement and analysis systems, solutions and services. In 2011, we focused on processing, measurement, inspection, analysis and assembly equipment, showcasing the latest models and application technologies to domestic and overseas customers based on the theme “Hitachi's best solution: Bringing the frontier to the forefront.” We approached this year's exhibition as an opportunity to put forward the Hitachi Group's best solutions, in terms of manufacturing cutting-edge semiconductor devices for the future.
The semiconductor manufacturing process is divided into a front end, called the wafer process, and a back end, known as the packaging process. The Hitachi Group has a full range of products, from etching systems and other front-end equipment to inspection and measurement systems such as CD-SEMs. We also provide high-resolution electron microscopes (SEM, TEM, and others), FIB and other analysis systems, and a range of back-end assembly equipment.
The cutting-edge device manufacturers who purchase our front-end semiconductor equipment are always working to miniaturize components even further, bring in new materials and improve technology throughout the manufacturing process, to produce high performance, low power chips. To resolve issues as quickly as possible for those customers who are under constant pressure to come up with new technical innovations, the Hitachi Group has developed high precision, high productivity etching process technologies and a range of inspection and measurement technologies. These are amongst the technologies showcased at this year's exhibition. We also provided details of our service operations, which are set to become even more important in the future.
The semiconductor industry is also stepping up technical innovation in relation to back-end processes, based on the concept “More than Moore.” Semiconductor packaging is becoming more complex too, with technology capable of layering thinly cut chips in a single package becoming increasingly commonplace. In our back-end process booth, we exhibited an actual die bonder designed for use on small packages. The aim was to showcase its outstanding packaging precision and productivity on large diameter wafers, based on the notion that “seeing is believing.” Other featured items of equipment included highly sensitive ultrasound imaging equipment, which is now faster than ever before, and our best-selling TM3000 Tabletop microscope.
In addition to profiling technology in relation to analysis systems, as we do every year, this year we also used our exhibitor seminars to discuss subjects relating to etching systems.
* Hitachi Group: Hitachi, Ltd., Hitachi High-Technologies, Hitachi Capital, Hitachi High-Tech Fielding, Hitachi High-Tech Instruments, Hitachi Engineering & Services, among others.
Summarize your thoughts on SEMICON Japan 2011
From our point of view here at the Hitachi Group, nearly all of our major domestic customers came to the event. Many of our overseas customers were there too. Our meeting rooms got a great deal of use as a result, and our exhibitor seminars were standing room only. It felt like we were getting a really great response.
The semiconductor manufacturing process (front-end)
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The semiconductor manufacturing process (back-end)
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Most of the investment coming into the semiconductor business is focused on cutting-edge technology. Many of the customers we spoke to at the event however showed a keen interest in our modifications and other solutions as they are making efforts to improve productivity. That helped underline the fact that we need to concentrate even more on such areas in the future. SEMICON Japan is genuinely effective as an opportunity to showcase solutions and services, from optimizing recipes (data specifying processing techniques, parameters, etc.) to improving the productivity of existing equipment, by upgrading application software for instance. Although overseas markets currently account for the majority of our sales, we still have many of domestic customers who have been faithfully using our products for years. So we know that collaboration with them is of the utmost importance.
Looking back on SEMICON Japan as a whole, the overriding impression is of how far the exhibition has expanded in terms of its content, with more and more booths now promoting materials and other related services in recent years, as well as semiconductor manufacturing equipment. This year in particular, it felt like there were more booths targeting a wider range of customers, going beyond semiconductor integrated circuits. This year's exhibition also underlined the fact that related industries such as MEMS and LED are continuing to grow at a steady pace. I'm sure we will be tailoring our exhibits to appeal to a wider range of customers in the future.
- SEMICON Japan
Organized by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), an international industry association representing the manufacturing supply chain for the microelectronics, flat panel display (FPD) and solar power industries, including materials and services, SEMICON is a series of exhibitions showcasing semiconductor and FPD manufacturing equipment and materials. Exhibitions are held annually all over the word, from Europe to North America to Asia. The Japanese version, SEMICON Japan, which brings together a whole host of companies manufacturing semiconductor and FPD manufacturing equipment and materials on a global scale, is regarded as one of the most important SEMICON events, alongside SEMICON West in the US. In addition to exhibits, focusing mainly on new technologies, new products and actual pieces of equipment, the venue also features conference rooms, which exhibitors can use for a range of seminars and international meetings. As an event, SEMICON Japan encapsulates all the technologies needed to manufacture semiconductors and gives people the chance to see new innovations and initiatives paving the way for future technologies for themselves.
Taken from An Introduction to High Technology for an Insight into Trends in the electronic version of the Nikkei newspaper in April 2011.