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5 July 2007


SAFC’s Hitech segment focusing on semiconductor sector

Citing the growing importance of chemicals in semiconductor applications, SAFC of St Louis, MO, USA, the custom manufacturing and services arm of chemical supplier Sigma-Aldrich Group, has unveiled the new identity of its SAFC Hitech brand (one of SAFC’s four operating segments - comprising 12% of SAFC’s business - complementing SAFC Pharma, SAFC Supply Solutions, and SAFC Biosciences). SAFC Hitech offers a ‘total supply chain partner capability’ with global sales and local service to deliver chemicals expertise to the silicon and compound semiconductor industries. The Hitech segment is unveiling its product roadmap for the silicon and compound semiconductor markets on 17 July at the Semicon West 2007 trade show in San Francisco, CA.

With 1600 staff, SAFC had annual sales of nearly $500m in 2006 (making it is one of the world’s 10 largest fine chemical businesses) and in February spent $60m to acquire chemicals supplier Epichem Group Ltd of Bromborough, UK (which is now SAFC Hitech’s headquarters, with Barry Leese, co-founder of Epichem in 1983, as president ) .

With the addition of Epichem’s expertise and industry relationships, built up over the past 25 years, SAFC Hitech now offers a compound and silicon semiconductor skill set for the development, integration and large-scale manufacture of chemical vapor deposition (CVD) precursors for conductive films, barrier layers, high-k dielectrics for advanced gate stacks, low-k dielectrics for inter-level dielectric layer (IDL) applications and specialty optical or surface modification coatings.

For the silicon market, SAFC Hitech offers an integrated approach from research through to commercialization to complement customer’s product lifecycles. A secured supply chain and access to knowledge of materials for semiconductors for developing new molecules can yield a faster route to market, the firm claims. The new Hitech segment brings SAFC an understanding of applications, the firm says. While SAFC’s global reach ensures it can guide any customer, anywhere, through the entire supply chain, Hitech’s expertise in chemical development enables it to create materials to meet both current and future requirements.

For the compound semiconductor market, SAFC Hitech ensures reliability of supply while retaining the ability to react quickly to changing market requirements, it is claimed. The firm covers the full scope from manufacture, distribution, storage, service, safety, quality, materials management and recycling.

“We acquired Epichem because of their unique understanding of advanced chemistries for the silicon and compound semiconductor markets,” said SAFC president Frank Wicks. “This is a valuable extension of our own unique understanding of manufacturing production-scale high-purity chemicals, our global supply chain infrastructure and financial strength. Combined, we offer our customers access to chemicals expertise, close collaboration on the development of new materials and process integration schemes, and the ability to quickly scale-up to volume production levels. This unique business model accelerates technology progression and time-to-market.”

The role of chemistry in semiconductor manufacturing is rapidly evolving as the industry strives to keep pace with Moore’s Law, says SAFC. The need for increased performance and smaller design rules brings greater complexity in device manufacturing, especially on the gate level where molecular chemistry is being applied. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), chemical companies and integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) will need to interface directly with each other to develop the optimum chemistries, process technologies and integration schemes for particular applications.

“As we continue to find innovative materials for next-generation technology nodes, the need for greater collaboration between process engineers, tool manufacturers and chemical companies becomes critical,” said Leese. “What we will experience moving forward is an increased commitment to a turnkey approach through increasing levels of cooperation. This signals a change in the traditional business model,” he adds. He highlights the transition from SAFC just being a supplier of raw materials to separate materials suppliers (with SAFC’s products forming part of Sigma-Aldrich’s catalog of 120,000 chemicals) to itself being part of materials supplier partnerships, instead dealing directly with OEMs and IDMs (which previously interfaced with SAFC only through the third-party materials suppliers).

“SAFC Hitech is well positioned to capitalize on this market opportunity, guiding customers successfully through the entire supply chain and production process, from research and development through pilot production to commercialization and materials disposal,” Leese concludes.

See related item:

Epichem acquired by Sigma-Aldrich for $60m