Wed, Apr 09, 2014 - Page 13 News List

Wafer inspector plans for expansion with new plant

NEW PRODUCTS:Hermes Microvision said that next year it is to launch production of the ‘eP4,’ which can spot defects in wafers from 3-nanometer technology

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Hermes Microvision Inc (HMI, 漢微科), which makes wafer inspection equipment for clients, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), on Monday said it plans to build a new plant in the Southern Taiwan Science Park later this year to expand capacity by between 100 and 150 percent.

The new plant is set to start operation from the fourth quarter of this year, boosting the firm’s capacity to between 100 and 150 units of wafer inspection equipment a year from the current 50 units, the company said.

“Whether we can launch new-generation products on time is our biggest challenge,” HMI chief financial officer Leo Shen (沈孝廉) told an investors’ conference in Taipei.

The company is working on new-generation wafer inspection products as its clients adopt advanced process technologies to manufacture chips, Shen said.

In addition to TSMC, HMI also counts United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電), Samsung Electronics Co and Powerchip Technology Corp (力晶) among its major clients.

Citing studies by Gartner Inc, Shen said the total addressable inspection market is estimated to grow 31.25 percent to US$2.1 billion this year from US$1.6 billion in 2012.

Within the market, optical wafer inspection tools are expected to stay dominant with a more than 80 percent of market share this year because of their faster scanning speed, Shen said.

However, sales of electron beam (e-beam) inspection tools are forecast to account for more than 10 percent of total sales this year, compared with 10 percent in 2012, he added.

“As technology nodes become smaller, e-beam inspection tools that have higher resolutions will be required to meet chipmakers’ needs to detect nano-scaled physical defects or other electrical defects,” Shen said.

As more chipmakers adopt 22-nanometer or even 14-nanometer technologies to make chips, HMI aims to shift its focus to manufacturing more e-beam tools than optical ones this year, he said.

HMI provides three models of e-beam tools to clients, including the eScan 320, eScan 400 and eScan 500, all of which can detect defects in wafers produced using 10-nanometer process technologies, with sales of the eScan 320 model accounting for more than 50 percent of total sales last year.

The company plans to launch a new e-beam tool, the “eP4,” by the end of the year and will start mass-production of the new product — which can detect defects in wafers made with process technologies of less than 3-nanometers — in the beginning of next year.

As semiconductor demand remains solid this year given the strong sales of mobile devices, HMI’s sales this year are forecast to grow by between 25 and 30 percent from NT$5.34 billion last year, Shen said.

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