Based in San Jose, CA, Electroglas, Inc. (EGLS) is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of automated wafer prober systems, test handlers and software used in the back-end process of semiconductor integrated circuit (IC) manufacturing.
The back-end of the manufacturing process takes place after a wafer (usually silicon) has completed the device formation stage, in which multiple copies of an IC device have been constructed on a single wafer. A wafer prober then moves the wafer so that each die's (IC device) electrical contact points are properly aligned with the probe card's pins, facilitating the parametric or functional testing of the device. Parametric testing is done both during and at the completion of the device fabrication process. Functional testing, completed after final construction, determines whether the device meets performance specifications (wafer sorting). Following the wafer sort, the wafer is then cut into individual die. Each die has electrical leads attached and then packaged within an environmentally protective encasement. The purpose of the die package or encasement is to protect the semiconductor device from environmental elements and secure the electrical contacts to the protruding electrical leads. In addition, the encasement acts as a medium through which thermal energy or heat is dissipated from the die. A final test is then conducted on the chip. Wafer probers are used in wafer sorting applications roughly 85% of the time, while the rest are used in parametric testing. Thus most of the testing is done in the back-end of the fabrication process. Each probe card is custom-built for each specific wafer, as well as for the test equipment that accepts the probe card's electronic information. Functionally, this test equipment increases the efficiency of the manufacturing process through the detection and removal of defective semiconductor devices prior to final assembly. The primary challenges facing wafer prober and probe card manufacturers are the transition to larger wafers, the shrinking of device sizes, increasing throughput requirements, and devices running at greater speeds and lower power.
Electroglas' product line includes wafer prober systems for 200mm and 300mm wafers, as well as older products serving the sub-200mm market. These probers are used in parametric and functional testing applications. The company has recently increased the addressable market through an active effort to serve the memory segment. Memory is one of the most pervasive types of chips produced. DRAM (dynamic random access memory) manufacturers are currently using a small quantity of these products. The company extended the product line into the final test handling market segment, as new packaging technologies such as wafer level package (WLP), Known-Good Die (KGD), MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) technologies, ultra-thin and diced wafers required more sophisticated handlers. This also includes packages in panel or leadframe strip formats such as Chip Scale Packages (CSP) and Ball Grid Arrays (BGA). EGLS recently introduced a couple of test handlers Pathfinder (for wafers on film frames) and Sidewinder (for wafers in strip form) which can be used for very high-speed, parallel test handling in the final testing process. The company's software includes SORTmanager, EGCommander, and GEMTalk 200, which analyze, control and report on sort floor processes, and the Collaborative Process Management (CPM) suite, which creates data regarding process quality, interprets the data and generates reports.
In 2004, the company generated $63 million in revenue, up 40% from 2003. Prober systems and prober parts accounted for 68%, software products 3%, and aftermarket parts and services 29%. In an effort to strategically realign around the core wafer prober and wafer handling businesses, ELGS sold the design for manufacturing software products in July 2003 and the optical inspection product business in October 2003. Geographically, North America generates 37% of sales (up 48%), Asia/Pacific another 34% (up 16%) with the remaining 29% coming from Europe (up 71%). EGLS sells its products to some of the leading semiconductor manufacturers in the world. Its major customers in include STMicroelectronics and Atmel, each with more than 10% share of net sales.
By 2007 the revamped company had $44.6 million in sales, which was virtually flat with 2006 sales. Net sales were down 30% in 2006 from 2004. This decrease was primarily due to a 46% decrease in the volume of prober system sales due to slow customer qualification and acceptance of the new 300mm prober product, partially offset by a 14% increase in average selling prices.