India is committed to carving out space for itself on the global semiconductor map. It is evident from several statements and steps over a period of time, not least the recently concluded SemiconIndia 2022 conference, held in Bengaluru from 29 April to 1 May 2022 with the broad purpose of 'catalysing India's semiconductor ecosystem'.
In the light of India's semiconductor push, Swarajya contributor Arun Mampazhy corresponded over email with Lam Research's Rangesh Raghavan to learn about his company's work as part of the semiconductor ecosystem. He shed light on Lam Research's expertise in general and its India activities in particular.
Lam Research is a wafer fabrication equipment and service supplier to the semiconductor industry. Rangesh Raghavan is the Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Lam Research India, a position he has held since February 2020. He was previously the Vice President of Strategic Development at Lam. (More about Raghavan after the interview)
Here are the excerpts:
If I look at the key equipment needed in a semiconductor wafer processing fab, perhaps at a high level, they belong to six categories — photolithography, etching, diffusion or implantation, deposition or growth, chemical-mechanical polish, and finally metrology. Which among these are the strongest areas for Lam?
Lam Research provides innovative wafer fabrication equipment and services to the semiconductor industry. Lam provides offerings in four vital processes: deposition, etch, wafer cleaning, and strip. We complement that with an exceptional breadth of services and support that we provide to customers.
Within these steps, there is a range of applications because making a semiconductor device means you must deposit a wide range of materials, both insulating and conducting. Correspondingly, to create the patterns that define the circuits, you must also etch or remove those materials. So, even though it sounds very straightforward to say we do things such as etch, deposition, and cleaning, within those definitions, we supply a broad portfolio of products that address specific applications for our customers.
Our technology leadership and innovation in these areas, particularly in etching and deposition, are critical enablers of new chip technology advancements.
Apart from those six major categories I listed, what are the other significant types of equipment or elements of the supply chain or services for semiconductor fabs that Lam provides globally?
In addition to providing deposition, etching, stripping, and cleaning equipment, we supply a range of services to our customers.
Process control is a significant capability now because it allows our customers to use our equipment more effectively and efficiently. There is a range of products under the process control umbrella that we offer. Our Equipment IntelligenceTM suite of software and hardware solutions provides customers with an unparalleled capability to control process performance precisely and accurately.
We also provide customers with a lot of after-sales support. This support could be spare parts, for example, or through services like maintenance and upgrade services. We help our customers looking to transition to the next generation of semiconductor devices by selling them the upgrade kit necessary to change the machine from one configuration to another.
And completing our offerings is the Reliant Systems business group that supports older, more established chip nodes and technologies with the best products for their needs.
In the global scenario, where, on the one hand there are many upcoming fabs, which should be good news for WFE suppliers, but on the other hand, there is also news about not being able to keep up with the orders and delays in supplying. How is Lam dealing with this situation and what are its short-term and long-term priorities?
Strong semiconductor demand, in combination with the pandemic, has driven supply chain challenges for much of the semiconductor ecosystem in recent years. Lam has worked closely with our partners and suppliers to address these changing dynamics and enhance supply chain flexibility, as appropriate, to support our customers’ needs. This includes a wide range of activities in supplier engineering, supply chain management, and commodity management. We have also committed the financial resources and workforce required to both meet our customers’ priority needs in the short term as well as increase the long-term resiliency of our global supply network.
Let me focus on India a bit. Can you take us through the history of Lam Research in India, when and how it started, what is the current status in terms of employees (number as well as percentage of global strength), locations, and anything else that may be relevant?
Our Lam India team has a key role in driving software and hardware engineering innovation, global operations, and analytics for the company. Today, Lam operates in two facilities and employs over 1,300 in Bengaluru, India.
Lam opened our software development centre, our first facility in India, in 2000. This important research and development (R&D) facility works on the development of sophisticated software used to tune, calibrate, and utilise Lam’s cutting-edge wafer fabrication equipment. Today, our talented engineers here focus on advancing nanotechnology software for next-generation semiconductor manufacturing.
In 2007, we opened our second R&D facility, a hardware engineering centre that focuses on the mechanical and electrical design of the equipment itself. Here, talented teams of engineers work on cutting-edge innovations in robotics, chemistry, heat management and flow management, electrical power distribution, instrumentation and controls, and vacuum technology.
In 2013, we further expanded our footprint in India to support our global business operation. Today, our Lam India employees provide support and management in the supply chain, logistics, sales procurement, IT, and other areas of strategic importance. In the last few years alone, our India team has also expanded its focus on data science, performing analytics, designing data structures and data fabric, and preparing the company for the Industry 4.0 era.
Together, Lam’s India operations contribute significantly to most key engineering disciplines at the company and play an important role in serving our customers.
We are also building a new engineering, research, and development facility in Bagmane Tech Park (BTP) in Bengaluru. Our investment in this facility will significantly scale Lam’s engineering and R&D capacity and capability in India and position us to continue to capitalise on the substantial pool of regional talent. It will function as both a software and a hardware engineering lab, allowing our engineers to quickly prototype and test new designs and innovations while accelerating cycles of learning.
More about Raghavan
Raghavan began his career at Texas Instruments in the advanced process R&D group as a thin films engineer, where his responsibilities later included process integration and technology transfer for both logic and memory technologies.
His employment experience includes KLA-Tencor, where he served in various marketing and applications roles for over 10 years, and PDF Solutions, a design-for-manufacturability consulting firm.
Raghavan holds a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in India and an MBA degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Arun Mampazhy has a BTech from IITM and MS from University of Maryland in semiconductor fabrication and over a decade of industry experience. His dreams of seeing a commercial fab takeoff in India has changed from black and white to colour over two decades. He can be reached via email nanoarun(at)gmail(dot)com or @nano_arun on twitter. Views expressed are personal.
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