Californian 3D printer manufacturer VELO3D has announced a joint development agreement with semiconductor specialist Lam Research to advance 3D metal printing for semiconductor applications. Lam’s investment arm, Lam Capital, will also be investing an undisclosed amount in VELO’s 3D printing technology, ultimately aiming to scale up its own additive manufacturing part volume in the next five years.
Kevin Jennings, senior vice president of Global Operations at Lam Research, states: “This joint development arrangement aligns well with Lam’s mission to continuously seek new technologies that push the limits of product design and manufacturing. We are excited to lead the semiconductor industry in delivering value to our customers from AM.”
Joint development agreement
The collaborative effort will see the development of new novel metal alloys and processes for use with VELO’s Sapphire 3D printer. Lam intends to use the system to produce proprietary wafer fabrication tooling – the equipment used to manufacture nano-scale semiconductor components and integrated circuits. With its investment, Lam believes the Sapphire system is more than capable of producing the fine features and complex 3D structures found in 21st century electronic devices.
Jennings adds, “Lam Research is leveraging additive manufacturing as a driver of the innovation that enables our customers to build smaller, faster, more powerful, and power-efficient electronic devices for everyday use.”
Additive manufacturing and semiconductors
Semiconductor manufacturing is the epitome of high-volume production, whereby billions of silicon ‘on/off switches’ are packed into the microprocessing chips found in all of our digital devices. It requires the highest levels of repeatability, consistency, and precision control down to near-atomic scales. As such, the precise tooling will need an equally precise manufacturing method.
VELO’s Sapphire system is a laser-based powder bed fusion 3D printer, whereby a high power laser scans over a chamber of powder, fusing the individual granules into solid layers. The process, by nature, optimizes raw material use and is capable of producing complex geometries which would otherwise be impossible.
Benny Buller, CEO and founder of VELO3D, concludes: “VELO3D is well positioned to provide confidence in metal 3D printing due to our calibration, metrology, and digital traceability capabilities. This relationship aims to accelerate Lam’s journey of continuous innovation toward producing equipment that creates cutting-edge microprocessors, memory devices, and numerous related product types.”
The Lam investment is just one of many received by VELO this year, as the company announced in June that it had raised $12M in capital with the addition of new strategic investors. The Series D funding round took the manufacturer’s total funding to an impressive $150M. Also in June, VELO made the announcement that it had received its largest Sapphire 3D printer order in its two year history. The order came from an existing unnamed aerospace customer and totaled $20M.
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Featured image shows VELO3D’s Sapphire 3D printer. Photo via VELO3D.