How the Semiconductor Industry Will Transform the Next Wave of Emerging Technologies

How the Semiconductor Industry Will Transform the Next Wave of Emerging Technologies

Much of the general public discussion in technology focuses on megatrends in software and applications. It is often easy to overlook the very fact that the present global shift toward digital transformation is being powered by hardware that competes with DNA in size and complexity. When the transistor was first invented in 1947, it had roughly the dimensions of a deck of cards. Today, approximately one billion transistors are often placed in a neighborhood the dimensions of postage. The equipment and software employed by the semiconductor industry to make this technology is a few of the foremost sophisticated within the world.

Materials engineering is that the backbone for the semiconductor industry, and that we have developed many unique materials and manufacturing techniques to still shrink transistors. Equivalent technologies we've built to form smaller, more complex transistors now have the power to rework everything from AR/VR, to 3D printing, to advanced coatings for jet engines. Never has the motivation been stronger for emerging technology companies to seem at the semiconductor industry as vanguard partners for outlining and building the digital future.

The first part of this story is about how materials are the building blocks to deliver better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient products. Initially glance, a billboard reaction-propulsion engine and semiconductor equipment would appear to possess nothing in common. Actually, there are numerous commonalities between what happens inside these two machines. Making a microcircuit is an incredibly complicated and tightly controlled process. As a result, semiconductor equipment must achieve reliably and constantly for thousands of hours. The status inside a semiconductor chamber is harsh - likely exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius with endless exposure to highly corrosive or oxidizing gases, while rotating wafers at up to 1,000 RPM. Similarly, the recent section of a reaction-propulsion engine has extreme temperatures, oxidation, and corrosion while rotating at thousands of RPM. And like semiconductor chambers, jet engines got to run reliably and consistently for thousands of hours. 

It is not surprising that a lot of engineers at Applied Materials (Applied) have hung out in both the industries.

At Applied, we've developed unique coatings and chamber materials to satisfy customer specifications on uptime and process control under the foremost severe conditions. For instance, we use ceramic coatings during a sort of process equipment to enable improved device performance, while also extending preventative maintenance cycles. The aerospace industry also relies on unique coatings and materials today. By closely engaging with the aerospace industry, we've seen that Applied has multiple technologies in our portfolio which will help the aerospace industry enhance fuel efficiency, reduce maintenance, and extend component life. For instance, if we will improve fuel efficiency by one-hundredth, it might be worth $2B annually to the airline industry.

"Materials engineering is that the backbone for the semiconductor industry, and that we have developed many unique materials and manufacturing techniques to still shrink transistors" 

The second part of the story is about how a semiconductor company could stretch itself enough to find out about something during a totally new industry. At Applied, we use a growth process developed over decades to spot high value problems and identify ways we will solve them. Within the case of coatings, our contact with the aerospace industry started once we were trying to unravel one among our own problems. Because chamber environments get hotter and more reactive with every generation, we knew we would have liked to seem outside our own walls for solutions. We met with aerospace industry leaders and academics to find out about the solved challenges with surfaces. Additionally, we joined the middle for Thermal Spray Research (CTSR) at Stony Brook University, a corporation that has been key to developing novel thermal spray processes for several industries, including aerospace. During this process, we learned how the industry worked, the wants for brand spanking new coatings, and got a thought of what problems they were facing. Digging deeper, we prioritized customer high value problems (HVPs) by what would offer them with the best value and were the toughest for them to solve: differentiated performance at the highest, improved manufacturing yield next, and price improvement last (but still important). With technical experts within the company, we identified which HVPs we could address. Today, we are engaged in several areas with the aerospace industry to enable them to satisfy their roadmaps. We've also discovered areas where others have complementary skill sets and have made strategic investments in startups like Norsk Titanium, a pacesetter in additive manufacturing for aerospace. As we continue forward, we believe that we will tackle more HVPs and expand our footprint into many new markets by leveraging our sophisticated materials engineering capabilities.

The benefits of this cross-industry development are clear, but creating fertile grounds for collaboration requires thinking creatively about partnership mechanisms and incentive structures. This is often particularly difficult in an industry and value chain that has seen much consolidation over the past 30 years. To combat this, Applied has embraced an open innovation model to draw in and cultivate non-traditional partners from industry, academia, and government. We recognize that difficult problems are most frequently solved by teams and have developed the tools, process, and cultures to assist them succeed. Ceramic coatings are only one technology that we glimpse forward to exercising in new spaces, we'll still collaborate with vanguard partners to define and build the digital future.

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