The basic building blocks of almost all the electronic devices are components like semiconductor wafers, ICs, MEMS, memory devices (HDDs), PCBs, etc The overall performance of the electronic device depends on the performance of individual components. Moreover, as these components are comparatively small, contaminants affect their performance and reliability in a big way. Hence, microelectronics cleaning is a crucial step as regards the functioning of any electronic device and the cleaning equipment market is one of the most important markets of the semiconductor industry.
Microelectronics cleaning equipment are used to clean silicon wafers, compound semiconductor device wafers, MEMS, flat panel displays, read/write heads of hard disk drives, photomasks, and printed circuit boards. The major application of microelectronics cleaning equipment is in the IC fabrication industry, where a big percentage of the fabrication process involves cleaning the wafers.
The cleaning of microelectronics involves many different challenges like removal and neutralization of the effects of multiple kinds of contaminants, defects, etc. and hence various technologies are used in the process. This includes wet chemical cleaning, dry cleaning, aqueous cleaning, and cryogenic aerosol and supercritical fluid cleaning. These cleaning technologies can be used in equipment that process wafers one-by-one, called single-wafer cleaning equipment, or in groups simultaneously, called batch-wafer cleaning.
By geography, APAC is the leading manufacturer of electronic devices with Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, etc. leading the charts. In accordance with this, APAC is also the major contributor to the microelectronics cleaning equipment industry. North America has had a stable semiconductor device market for over the last five years with a small growth rate. This is expected to continue in the next five years as well.
The major drivers of the microelectronics cleaning equipment market include increasing demand for smartphones and tablets, growth in the semiconductor industry, and shift to single-wafer processing. The explosive growth in the smartphone and tablet market has boosted the demand for more semiconductor wafers and hence more microelectronics cleaning equipment. The performance-driven IC market has forced the transition to single-wafer processing and this is another big driver.
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