“An interview with Peter Dijkstra and Karsten Arts.”
This is already the fourth post in a series of blogs in which we will share exciting information about companies or other organizations within the atomic scale processing industry. Through an interview, we aim to get insight into the kind of products and projects the companies have and in which way they see their company developing in the future. We also try to dive deeper into what drives these companies and what makes them so special in the atomic scale processing industry. In addition, we will address topics like how the company implements science communication and which student opportunities exist.
|Facts and Figures about Trymax|
|Company location||Nijmegen, the Netherlands|
|Markets||IC-Logic, IC-Analog, Discrete, MEMS,Packaging, Optoelectronics|
|Number of employees 2023||110|
|Number of employees 2022||90|
|Goal for 2023||To minimize the impact of the worldwide semiconductor downturn|
For this post, we got the opportunity to talk with Peter Dijkstra, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), and Karsten Arts, Process Engineer, of Trymax Semiconductor Equipment. The core business of the company based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, is to support semiconductor manufacturers throughout the world with innovative plasma-based solutions. Their primary emphasis lies in photoresist stripping, a critical step in the semiconductor manufacturing process that involves the adequate removal of the photoresist layer from a wafer. With their innovative solutions, their goal is to meet the most stringent requirements and deliver advanced processing capabilities to push the boundaries of the semiconductor industry.
The History of Trymax
Leo Meijer, the CEO and founder of Trymax, started his career in the semiconductor industry at Philips Semiconductors (now NXP). Here he became responsible of overseeing a group of maintenance engineers at the Philips factory in Nijmegen. After some years, he transferred to Matrix Integrated Systems, a chip machine manufacturer based in the United States to take on the role of senior field service engineer.
However, in 2003, the landscape shifted when Axcelis Technologies acquired Matrix. Axcelis, primarily interested in the latest chip machine models, made the decision to discontinue support for their European customers. This left a significant void in the market and posed a challenge for the large customer base in Europe that relied on Matrix machines. Recognizing the opportunity to fill this gap, Leo reached out to the European customer base in order to continue providing valuable service and maintenance and was soon joined by Ludo Vandenberk (Executive Vice President) who Leo knew from his time at Philips and Matrix.
In 2003, Trymax was founded, an anagram of “Matrix”. Their mission was clear: to provide service and support for European customers who depended on Matrix machines. As time went on, however, Trymax faced a new challenge. Between 2009 and 2011, they realized that the aging Matrix machines had exceeded their serviceability limits and Trymax would start manufacturing their own machines.
The company underwent a significant transformation, transitioning from a service-oriented company to a cutting-edge manufacturer. This strategic move allowed them to adapt to the evolving semiconductor landscape and stay at the forefront of technological advancements. During this period, Trymax introduced their proprietary product line known as “NEO,” designed to address a wide range of applications throughout the semiconductor manufacturing process. The name “NEO” pays homage to the main character of the iconic 1999 movie “The Matrix,” which both Leo and Ludo are fan of.
What topics is Trymax working on now?
The primary focus of Trymax is photoresist processing, particularly photoresist stripping. Photoresist stripping is a crucial step in semiconductor manufacturing that involves the adequate removal of photoresist material from a wafer after the etching step. One way how the company does this is by using remote microwave plasmas, at substrate temperatures around 250 °C, to “burn off” the photoresist in a process called ashing. In a remote plasma, O2 is dissociated and an abundance of radicals is produced which are channeled to the wafer. Alternatively, the plasma can be generated in an RF parallel plate reactor at lower temperatures but with the generation of more ions. Trymax also works on machines involving a combination of microwave plasma generation and a RF powered wafer chuck.
Another process Trymax works on is called “descum”, which is the removal of residual photoresist (scum) in the open features of the pattern after the lithography and developing steps. This process takes place at lower temperatures to prevent damage to the patterned photoresist. Here, the challenge lies in delicately removing a small amount of resist while preserving the integrity of the pattern.
Furthermore, Trymax offers UV curing solutions. A UV source is used during the baking of the photoresist to form a crosslinked “crust” as a top layer. It is especially helpful to prevent reflowing which leads to losing the desired pattern. An additional benefit of UV curing is that it helps with the future removal of resist. Without UV curing, the photoresist can start cooking during the ashing step leading to “popping” of the photoresist in which unwanted particles contaminate the wafer.
Looking ahead, Trymax keeps a close eye on the development of Industry 4.0. This next-generation system aims to establish seamless communication among machines throughout the production chain. By optimizing process matching and minimizing off-time, this system will enable machines to autonomously take over in the event of malfunctions. While operators currently oversee these operations, the future integration of artificial intelligence holds great promise.
What is the unique expertise of Trymax?
Trymax has three main areas of expertise namely: low-temperature plasmas, wafer transport, and material processing. Regarding wafer transport, Trymax works a lot with silicon carbide, gallium nitride, and TAIKO wafers. These wafers come in different sizes and thicknesses. TAIKO wafers are wafers that have been ground down to 30 microns, except for an outer ring that is kept at the original thickness of 735 microns for support. Those extremely thin wafers require delicate handling. To accomplish this, Trymax employs a sophisticated robot arm which can be equipped with several specialized substrate gripping solutions, designed for a wide range of conditions. The company ensures cleaner wafer transport by equipping all their 200 mm wafer machines with SMIF (Standard Mechanical Interface) technology, while 300 mm wafer machines utilize FOUP (Front Opening Unified Pod) technology. In order to adapt to the evolving market, Trymax is currently in the process of rebuilding their machines to support overhead transport. This modification involves the automized loading of cassettes from the top, allowing for a more efficient operation.
A notable feature of Trymax’s equipment is its ability to process two different wafer sizes simultaneously. This feature proves particularly valuable in a transitioning market, such as the LED industry (going from 150 to 200 mm), where older machines need extensive modifications to accommodate new wafer diameters. By already accommodating varying wafer sizes, Trymax’s machines mitigate the risks associated with equipment reconfiguration. An additional feature is that the machines automatically recognize the wafer size and handle it seamlessly, streamlining production processes and enhancing efficiency.
Lastly, Trymax employs a talented team of experts with expertise in the field of low-temperature plasmas leading to innovative plasma sources and solutions. While the company primarily focuses on applied research, in the future, it would like to collaborate with universities to engage in more fundamental research. One approach to foster this collaboration involves granting universities access to one of their machines, enabling them to conduct research and explore new possibilities in the field of plasma processing.
What are the target customers of Trymax?
Targeting a diverse range of markets, Trymax focuses on delivering innovative solutions to cater to the specific needs of various industries. With their products and services, they primarily serve three main markets: the automotive industry, cloud computing, and 5G technology.
In the automotive sector, their products help in power-related applications, specifically in the current transition to electric vehicles. For these power electronics devices, ordinary silicon is not an option as it cannot withstand the high voltages. Trymax provides a solution by being able to process gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) wafers which are suitable for power electronics. Similarly for 5G, Trymax provides a solution of processing wafers, other than silicon, needed for this advanced technology.
Cloud computing is a technology that enables the delivery of computing services over the internet. It involves the provision of on-demand access to resources such as storage, processing power, and applications, without the need for local infrastructure. However, to meet the ever rising processing speed requirements at the cloud stations, more and more optical fibers are being implemented. Trymax’s products come, for example, into play by facilitating the manufacturing of IR lasers used for signaling over these fibers.
In addition to these primary markets, Trymax recognizes the growing significance of other sectors such as biomedical, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In terms of market presence, the primary market is Europe, with a particular focus on automotive applications originating from Germany. The second largest market is China whereas other significant markets include Southeast Asia, the USA, Taiwan and Japan.
Does Trymax actively pay attention to science communication?
Although safeguarding their intellectual property and proprietary findings is important for Trymax as well as any other company, Trymax recognizes the significance of communication. Therefore they actively seek opportunities to engage with clients and the wider scientific community. They often participate in events and conferences in order to showcase their expertise, network with industry professionals, and stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the semiconductor industry. Besides, the company is starting a newsletter specifically designed for their clients. This newsletter serves as a platform for sharing updates, technological breakthroughs, and other relevant information directly with their client base.
Looking ahead, they acknowledge the potential benefits of collaborating with technical universities. By partnering with them, the company seeks to establish a stronger presence in the scientific community. They envision their name being linked to research publications, which would enhance their reputation and visibility in the industry. However, as the company is growing at a fast pace, finding the time to work on these papers can be an issue. Nonetheless, Trymax is full of ideas that they are eager to explore and develop further.
The company is experiencing significant growth and is composed of diverse professionals with a range of expertise. Over the past year, Trymax has expanded its workforce from 90 employees in 2022 to 110 employees in 2023, indicating the company’s positive trajectory and increasing demand for their services.
A notable characteristic of the team is the presence of many young and innovative engineers. These fresh-minded individuals bring a dynamic perspective to the company, contributing to its innovative culture. They have different backgrounds, including applied physics (especially in process engineering), mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering, bringing a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving and product development.
Recognizing the value of young talent, Trymax offers internship opportunities for students. While they only had one physics-related internship thus far, the company is happy to welcome new students. By providing internships, Trymax not only contributes to the development of future professionals but also benefits from the fresh ideas and perspectives brought by the interns.