New strategy, markets and innovation fuel APTC’s rise in semiconductor etcher systems
- With its numerous patents, awards, original plasma source technology and market leadership as South Korea’s sole domestic supplier of poly etching equipment, APTC is gearing up for growth at home and overseas
Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports
From its medieval origins as a metalworking method using acid, etching has evolved into a crucial technique applied in fabricating the semiconductors and micro-components powering today’s wireless electronic devices and miniature systems.
Its critical role in shaping silicon wafers for the nearly half-a-trillion-dollar semiconductor industry is at the crux of business for Adaptive Plasma Technology (APTC), a specialised developer and producer of semiconductor etcher systems in Asia.
With its numerous patents, awards, original plasma source technology and market leadership as South Korea’s sole domestic supplier of poly etching equipment, APTC is gearing up for growth at home and overseas.
Listed on the Korea Exchange under the leadership of its current CEO, the company has revitalised its business strategy with plans to explore new markets, new clients and new technologies.
“Decision-making is very important, followed by customer response – which is why we place a lot of emphasis on customer service and our ability to address client needs easily and quickly,” says Choi Woo-hyung, CEO. “My aim is for Adaptive Plasma Technology to become a leading company in the global semiconductor industry.”
Traditional etching involves immersing and dissolving material in wet chemicals. Dry etching – or plasma etching – has become the method of choice in semiconductor production as it consumes less energy and fewer chemicals, does not require water, and is an automatable process.
Various applications of dry etching include its use in the medical field, where it is employed to ensure the safety and sterility of filters and catheters, and in industry, contributing to better bonding in gluing plastics and soldering printed circuit boards.
Since 2002, APTC has engaged in the manufacturing of dry etcher systems for mass semiconductor production. Today, the company supplies 300mm plasma etching systems, 200mm plasma etching systems, plasma doping systems and light-emitting-diode etching systems.
Over the past 19 years, APTC has been an established supplier for SK hynix in South Korea and its mass production subsidiaries in China. SK hynix is the second-largest memory chip maker and third-largest semiconductor company globally.
Fully committed to research and development (R&D) in pursuit of quality and innovation, APTC has invested US$20 million in American engineering capabilities, maintaining an R&D office in the United States, where it aims to work with tier-one semiconductor companies.
APTC holds 56 domestic and 26 international patents. Its original and independent source technology, Adaptively Coupled Plasma, forms the backbone of production for the company’s commercially successful dry etcher systems for 300mm wafers, besting foreign-made systems with a competitive edge in affordability and performance.
The state-of-the-art plasma technology also has a number of applications in the next-generation dry etch sector and its related innovations.
In semiconductor manufacturing, chemical vapour deposition (CVD) is a method used to produce high-performance and high-quality solid materials such as thin film in a vacuum, while atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a vapour phase technique of laying thin films on a substrate. APTC is developing CVD, ALD and oxide etcher systems as it expands its portfolio of offerings.
With the rise of smartphones, smart televisions and other internet-of-things devices in Asia-Pacific, a region forecast to dominate the global semiconductor market over the coming years, APTC seeks to expand into markets such as mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore – home to some of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturing companies.
“A semiconductor etcher system is complex and utilises highly advanced technology,” Choi says. “Manufacturing etcher systems is not easy, and it is very difficult to develop new ones. That’s why we greatly value cooperative relationships and partnerships with other companies that allow us to apply our knowledge and conduct further research.”