Nova Measuring rides the wave of 3D-NAND

16 May, 2017

Nova Develops new ideas for semiconductors process control. Following its record results and the 3D-NAND plans of TSMC and Sumsung, Benchmark updated Nova's target price up to $27 in NASDAQ

[Photo above: Dr. Shay Wolfling, CTO of Nova]

Nova Measuring Instruments started 2017 with a strong momentum. The company announced a record quarterly revenue of $54.4 million, up 8 % sequentially and 60% year-over-year, above guidance of $50 to $54 million. Most interestingly, the provider of metrology solutions for process control in semiconductor manufacturing lines made a record quarterly bookings from 3D-NAND memory device manufacturers. This phenomena sent Benchmark analyst to raise its target price in NASDAQ to $27. As a result, Nova went up from $22.1 last week to $25.5 today, and a company value of $681 million.

Nova Measuring Instruments at NASDAQ

According to Benchmark, “NAND flash memory remains in short supply with 35% bit growth expected this year and next. The continuing ramp of next gen 3D devices with increased layer counts, up to 64 layers, should support demand for Nova’s metrology tools.”  During the first quarter TSMC represented 43% of sales and 27% of sales were to Samsung.

Inside Samsung and TSMC

Both will remain the major customers: “We see 2018 opportunities from both TSMC and Samsung. Increased 3D NAND production at the 7nm and 5nm nodes is expected later this and next year at TSMC. The first stage of investment for Samsung’s 18 Line, now in pilot production, will be able to produce about 40,000 to 50,000 300mm wafers per month. Annual wafer output from this fab is estimated to grow to over 1 million wafers over the next three years.”

Fulfilling this promise is not easy. Dr. Shay Wolfling, the Company’s Chief Technology Officer, told Techtime that new semiconductors production techniques raise the need for a new approach in critical dimension measurements and process control. “Now is the time to develop new ideas. To find a way to integrate all the known methods of test and measurements into a unified multi disciplinary solution.”

What are the main challenges?

Wolfling: “FinFET transistors and 3D NAND flash memories are just the beginning, and mark the direction for the future 3D semiconductors. 3D devices incorporate multitude of materials, hidden structures ans nano-metric dimensions.  We will need new wavelengths, such as DeepUV, Infra Red and X-ray, and new algorithms to combine all the information into a coherent process control. Optical measurements, for example, can give you critical dimensions data, while the X-ray gives you characterization of materials in the wafer.

“In Nova, following the acquisition of ReVera two years ago, we already integrate optical and X-ray data into a Hybrid Metrology Solution. It also means Big Data capabilities in the semiconductor production line. Currently we invest in all those areas. In fact, our research group works as a standalone body to ensure consistent operation without any disruption. We see direct link between our commitment for research and development, in amount of 24%-25% of total sales- and the recent success of the company.”

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