SandBox Semiconductor helps process engineers at semiconductor material and equipment manufacturers achieve higher yields and efficiencies through the proprietary use of data analytics and models to predict and optimize process outcomes. This reduces overall costs, accelerates time to market, and results in higher manufacturer profits. SandBox is developing a virtual environment called “STEER Powered by SandBox Studio™” or “STEER™” for high-throughput roll-to-roll (R2R) etch manufacturing processes for applications in the display, solar, and internet of things industries.
R2R electronic manufacturing is the process of creating electronic devices on a roll of flexible plastic or metal foil. Similar to a rotary printing press, R2R processing involves a continuously rolling feed such that it enables higher throughput and lower cost manufacturing than traditional semiconductor fabrication, which requires multiple process steps.
To successfully scale up an R2R fabrication line, each R2R unit process must be optimized sequentially to produce the desired process outcome. This type of integrative optimization is challenging and mandates a large upfront investment by prospective R2R adopters. Accordingly, despite its potential to reduce material and equipment costs while also shortening production cycles, R2R manufacturing has yet to be widely adopted by the private sector, even with the significant R&D investments made by the United States Government over the past ten years . This technological gap points to a clear opportunity for technological innovations in virtual simulation and holistic process optimization.
SandBox’s software solutions bridge this technology gap. A software tool that can simulate unit processes during the scale-up, design, and optimization of R2R lines reduces the capital barrier to entry for R2R processing and helps manufacturers achieve economies of scale. A R2R simulation environment will decrease the risk and uncertainty of R2R technology adoption for material, chip, and equipment manufacturers and enable the numerous benefits of R2R manufacturing to finally be realized.
With R2R technology, the opportunities for innovative applications are material. One can produce wire grid polarizers with 50 nm line-space patterns that reduce backlight requirements on displays, reducing energy consumption and increasing image quality. Nano-pyramids can be manufactured on the back side of silicon solar cells to increase light capture and improve their photovoltaic efficiency. Thousands of inexpensive internet of things (IoT) sensors and communicators can be manufactured for safety and security using this printing process. The cost of proton exchange membrane fuel cells could be lowered by over 200% when using R2R . STEER will enable a new paradigm for the low cost and high throughput production of electronic, photonic, plasmonic and sensing devices that will enable better and more capable personal electronics, more efficient energy systems, and more ubiquitous sensing for real-time decisions, safety and security.
At SandBox, our competitive advantage is that we offer high accuracy process predictions using robust chemical models and advanced data analytics. Because there is significant uncertainty surrounding process behavior at the nanoscale, even with a fairly accurate model, it is difficult to predict process outcomes without significant numbers of experiments. SandBox’s proprietary algorithms in Bayesian experimental design and nanomanufacturing systems permit us to not only simulate a nanomanufacturing process with a very high degree of accuracy, but also to do so with very little experimental input. The R2R models in STEER™ will plug directly into SandBox Semiconductor’s proprietary software, SandBox Studio™, where it will take advantage of all of SandBox’s proprietary workflow and data analytics technologies.