SK Innovation to Jump into Business for Semiconductor Materials

Jun 14, 2017

SK Innovation is jumping into business for semiconductor materials. SK Group acquired SK Materials (formally OCI Materials) and LG Siltron one after the other and is pushing for vertical integration of businesses for materials and components with SK Hynix at the center.
According to industries on the 13th, SK innovation is currently developing photoresist (PR) to supply to SK Hynix. SK Innovation is currently thinking about mass-producing PR while sending some prototypes to SK Hynix and hearing from SK Hynix about things that need to be improved.
Exposure process is a process that prints a pattern of a circuit on top of a silicon wafer and it is similar to a process that develops pictures with PR. A pattern of a circuit is formed as exposure equipment exposes a metallic photomask with a pattern to light and as light that penetrates a photomask is reacted with PR that is applied on top of a wafer.
Exposure equipment and materials are divided into G line, I line, KrF (Krypton Fluoride), ArF (Argon Fluoride), and EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet), which is the most high-tech method. SK Innovation is currently developing KrF PR that is used to produce 3D NAND flash memories. KrF PR for 3D NAND flash memory needs to be thicker than 10 micrometers when it is applied to a wafer because 3D AND flash memory is a structure that is made by stacking memory cells vertically.
Markets for high-tech and high-value PR materials such as ArF and EUV are dominated by Japan’s Shin-Etsu Chemical, Sumitomo, TOK, and JSR. Dongjin SEMICHEM from South Korea and Merck from Germany are currently supplying KrF PR that has somewhat lower difficulty level in technology.
“We have been focusing R&D on electronic materials such as PR since 2 years ago.” said President Kim Joon of SK Innovation. “We are also going to succeed in so-called ‘specialty chemical’ markets based on our abundant technical capabilities in oil and lubricant businesses.”
After incorporating SK Hynix as a subsidiary, SK Group has been focusing on semiconductor material businesses through bold M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions).
In January of last year, SK Group acquired SK Materials, which specializes in semiconductor special gas, from OCI. Major product of SK Materials is NF3 (Nitrogen Trifluoride) that removes residues from chambers of production equipment. It currently is the top company based on market shares of NF3. SK Materials established SK Tri-Chem and SK Showa Denko last year by working with Japan’s Tri-Chemical and Showa Denko respectively. SK Tri-Chem and SK Showa Denko are planning to produce zirconium precursor, which is high-tech high dielectric constant (High-K) deposition substance, and etching gas respectively and supply them to SK Hynix.
Early this year, SK Group acquired LG Siltron, which produces wafers, from LG Group. SK Hynix has been receiving wafers from Japan’s Shin-Etsu Chemical and SUMCO, SunEdison Semiconductor from the U.S., Germany’s Siltronic, and LG Siltron. It is likely that SK Hynix will purchase more wafers from LG Siltron in the future.
“Semiconductor business and other material businesses that are related to semiconductor business are the most important businesses out of new future businesses that are supposed to bring $177 billion (200 trillion KRW) of sales in 2020 according to Chairman Choi Tae-won of SK in 2015.” said a representative for a financial industry. “Major subsidiaries of SK started new R&D after Chairman Choi set this goal in 2015 and varieties of M&As were examined by top management of SK Group.”
This kind of movement is also expanding towards subsidiaries of SK Group’s subsidiaries. SKC’s subsidiary called SKC Solmics is developing mask blanks that are raw materials of photomasks that play a role of a film during an exposure process.
Mask blanks is supplied by applying metallic thin film on top of quartz glass substrate. Mask blanks is a mask that does not have pattern printed on it.
Japan’s HOYA Corporation and ULVAC Coating Corporation are the major suppliers of mask blanks. SNS Tech from South Korea developed its own mask blanks and is selling them globally. When SKC Solmics succeeds in commercializing mask blanks, there will be significant amount of import substitution effect.
SK Innovation is showing careful response. “We are currently developing chemical products such as PR for electronics.” said SK Innovation. “We are going to carefully examine on whether or not we are going to mass-produce these products for industrial production purpose.”
Staff Reporter Song, Hyeyoung | hybrid@etnews.com & Staff Reporter Han, Juyeop | powerusr@etnews.com

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