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MTI’s coating and cleaning solutions revolutionize the CIS semiconductor production process

Article - March 28, 2024

With a business model centered around creating one-of-a-kind solutions for its partners in the semiconductor industry, the South Korean company MTI has developed a cutting-edge combination of products that have drastically increased CMOS image sensor manufacturers’ yields.

JAMES PARK, PRESIDENT, MTI CO., LTD.

From digital imaging to automotive and security applications, CMOS Image Sensors (CIS) have grown to become a vital technology utilized across industries and devices.

Despite the ubiquitous nature and immense potential of their product, CIS factories spent years grappling with relatively unstable and unproductive manufacturing yields, which hovered around 40% and greatly reduced the profitability of their operations. Part of the reason for this lack of productivity was the appearance of foreign particles during the dicing process, a key stage of back-end semiconductor production.

In recent years however, a Korean manufacturer of coating and cleaning materials has developed a unique combination of products to address this industrial challenge; a solution that is set to revolutionize CIS production.

Established in 2005, South Korean company MTI specializes in making chemicals and materials that are critical to the manufacture of semiconductors, supplying its top-quality products to major clients in the domestic and international markets. Notably, MTI is a trusted partner to the South Korean electronics giant Samsung.

In the nearly two decades since MTI’s president, James Park, founded the Ansan-based company, its dedication to offering clients unique, leading-edge solutions has led the company to become a niche leader of the Korean semiconductor industry.

Looking back on MTI’s beginnings, Mr. Park recalls: “When you start something new, you have to follow a logical sequence of events. First, you need to figure out which area you may be successful in. Then, you need to analyze if you’re capable of doing that type of work. Once you start, your thoughts then need to evolve from ‘can I do it?’ to ‘I must do it!’. After that evolution takes place, it becomes important to differentiate between ‘what I can do’ and ‘what I must do’. I think I was lucky to understand the importance of respecting this sequence.”

For MTI and Mr. Park, that area of success soon became sawing, coating and cleaning solutions specifically targeted at semiconductor production.

“The turning point came when I successfully found the area that worked for me. This allowed me to start with something I was good at. In 2008, my thinking evolved from ‘I can do this’ to ‘I must do this’, and that was another important moment. I started dealing with chemicals and my very first product was Hyper-Pro®, a wafer blade sawing solution used during the dicing process in semiconductor production.”

The application of MTI’s product is found in the later stages of semiconductor production. After having completed front-end processing, the silicon wafer exits the foundry and moves to a fabrication step entitled backgrinding, at which stage wafer thickness is reduced to allow for stacking and high-density packaging of integrated circuits. Once this step is completed, the dicing process, where the wafer is sawed and each individual chip cut out, can begin.

“Back in the day, one of the main reasons for low semiconductor production yield was the appearance of foreign particles during that process,” explains Mr. Park. In 2008, however, we found that chemicals could be applied to the semiconductor surface to reduce the number of foreign particles during dicing, increasing production yield.”

Since then, MTI has harnessed its world-class R&D capabilities to develop a range of chemicals and materials designed to coat and clean semiconductors during production. Now able to reduce foreign particles at both the dicing and backgrinding stages, the company has created a flagship product combination that has transformed CIS semiconductor yield rates – much to manufacturers’ delight.

“Our solution is so unique that it changed the existing CIS production process,” Mr. Park reveals. “Our unique solution series is composed of a coating material and a peeling technology. Before the backgrinding process, the wafer is coated with a material that can handle a pressure equivalent to three tons and that is strong enough to resist the dicing process,” he adds.

When the wafer goes through the backgrinding process, MTI attaches a special tape equipped with a unique adhesive material to further protect the wafer from silicon particles. Right before undergoing automated visual inspection, the last stage of the process where the production yield is calculated, MTI applies a unique cleaning chemical to seamlessly get rid of the coating that was previously applied.

“For CIS semiconductors, the yield used to hover around 40% and could occasionally drop to 0%. After we applied our special coating material, the production yield increased to 99.9%, explains the MTI representative. When we showed that technology to Samsung, they were ecstatic!”

Creating such one-of-a-kind products is what drives MTI’s team of expert, dedicated professionals each and every day, Mr. Park declares: “We have a strong company identity that is taken from my obsession with uniqueness and with being the only one. If you compete against others, you will fight to become first, second, or third. In comparison, if you manage to create your own business or your own niche, you will always be the best. This obsession with uniqueness is how I turned MTI into what it is today.”

MTI’s impressive growth also comes down to the company’s commitment to continuous evolution. “The semiconductor industry will never stop advancing,” Mr. Park explains. “To remain competitive, our products must evolve in tandem with the market. Our first product, Hyper-Pro®, has gone through numerous changes and will continue to do so. Our ability to adapt to the evolution of the market is the reason why our cleaning chemicals enjoy a 90% market share within South Korea.”

As MTI plots its course towards ongoing success in its third decade and beyond, the firm’s business focus is clear: “Our core area of expertise is in CIS semiconductors. As part of a private-sector investment plan supported by the South Korean government, Samsung announced that they would invest 300 trillion KRW (230 billion USD) over the next 20 years to become the world's top system semiconductors maker in the world. Part of this investment will deal with CIS. Most of our future strategies, both domestically and internationally, are centered around the development of CIS technologies.”


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