KLA-Tencor opens machine design plant

At the opening yesterday are Mr Bobby Bell (left), executive vice-president of KLA-Tencor's Wafer Inspection Group, and Mr Chang Chin Nam, executive director of precision engineering at the Singapore Economic Development Board.
At the opening yesterday are Mr Bobby Bell (left), executive vice-president of KLA-Tencor's Wafer Inspection Group, and Mr Chang Chin Nam, executive director of precision engineering at the Singapore Economic Development Board.PHOTO: KLA-TENCOR

An American firm that makes machines that inspect semiconductor chips officially opened a design plant here yesterday.

KLA-Tencor Corporation's centre will focus on developing machines that help inspect chips that are packaged using an advanced method. Chips packaged this way occupy less space, consume less power and function quicker.

The machines will inspect such chips for physical defects such as scratches, incorrect length or incorrect electrical conductivity.

These advanced packaged chips are in demand because they occupy less volume, Mr Prashant Aji, a senior technical director at KLA-Tencor, told a briefing .

"You don't want to carry a bulky phone, you don't want to have these big watches or iWatches, so the (semiconductor chip) package is going through a big innovation right now," he said.

A greater demand for devices using semiconductor chips is also responsible for the increased demand for these advanced packaged chips.

"There is more demand for chips to be everywhere and connected with each other on your mobiles, on your smartwatches, on wearables, in automotives," said Dr Lena Nicolaides, a vice-president at KLA-Tencor.

"It's driving different methodologies of packaging like (this one)... our customers are asking us to provide solutions."

Customers are looking for features such as better functionality, lower cost and longer battery life, she added.

Semiconductor chips, which are used to collect data, can be used for purposes such as monitoring tyre pressure. A decrease in pressure creates a response in a chip that is fed to a computer in the car, which then activates a signal.

KLA-Tencor built the facility here so it could work closely with customers that carry out the advanced packaging processes, Dr Nicolaides added.

Growth in the use of such processes is coming predominantly from Asia.

The design facility in Serangoon North has around 20 staff with backgrounds in areas such as mechanical and electrical engineering. KLA-Tencor intends to double or triple that number in two to three years. The firm has manufacturing facilities, service engineers and sales staff among its 500 or so workforce here.

Professor Kwong Dim-Lee, executive director at Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Institute of Microelectronics, said KLA-Tencor's new centre would "enable the industry to bring complicated advanced packaging processes to manufacturing at higher yields and lower cost".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'KLA-Tencor opens machine design plant'. Print Edition | Subscribe