3D NAND memory manufacturing utilizes a combination of deposition and etch processes to define complex 3D structures with extremely high aspect ratio features. The plasma etch tool must etch more than a trillion holes simultaneously and uniformly on every wafer, each with an aspect ratio of 40:1 for 32- and 48-layer devices and 60:1 for 64 layer DRAMs.
The market for semiconductor process equipment for 3D NAND production will reach $15 billion in 2018. Driving the growth in wafer front end equipment is the growth in 3D NAND, which lists 3D NAND output by company.
The growth in 3D NAND device production is directly related to the quantity of processing equipment purchases. According to The Information Network’s report entitled “Plasma Etching: Market Analysis and Strategic Issues,” Lam Research’s market share reached 55% share in 2017, as show in the chart below.
Market share for Lam Research increased from the mid-40% share in 2012 to 55% share in 2017. Market share increased at the expense of Japan’s Tokyo Electron Limited (TEL), whose market share decreased from 30% in 2012 to 20% in 2017. Applied Materials was in third place with market share less than 20%.
There are two key criteria enabling Lam Research to become the dominant plasma etch equipment supplier for 3D NAND memory sales. The first is market share, and the company’s share has been increasing each year. Semiconductor manufacturers purchase equipment on a “best of breed” basis, and so this continual growth in share suggests that Lam Research’s etch equipment is technological better than competitors.
The second is customer base. Lam Research counts as customers all the 3D NAND companies. This suggests continued growth in plasma etch market share in 2018 as 3D NAND production escalates in 2018.
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