Brewer Science, Inc. in Rolla, Missouri, develops and manufactures materials and equipment for the fabrication of cutting-edge microdevices worldwide. The company primarily provides materials for the major semiconductor manufacturers across the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. The company has been recognized by Intel as a Distinguished Supplier, one of 26 suppliers worldwide in 2022.
Dr. Terry Brewer’s discovery of anti-reflective coatings resulted in a revolution in the global microelectronics industry and ushered in today’s high-speed, lightweight electronic devices.
According to Nathan Ayres, Brewer Science Marketing & Communications Manager, “Since the introduction of our anti-reflective coatings in 1981, we have continued to develop materials, which have driven lithography technology forward, including underlayer, hardmask, and planarizing/gapfill materials. We’ve also developed materials for advanced packaging solutions, including temporary bonding/debonding for thin wafer handling and permanent bonding.”
Partnering with equipment vendors, Brewer Science developed materials for fully automated solutions for wafer-level packaging. By temporarily bonding the silicon wafer to a carrier wafer, the wafer is thinned and die-packaged (including protective layers and electrical connections) before dicing, reducing size and increasing throughput.
Water Level Packaging
Wafer-level packaging (WLP) is the technology of packaging the die while it is still on the wafer—protective layers and electrical connections are added to the substrate before dicing. Originally, wafers were diced into individual chips, then packaged. Utilizing WLP technology allows chips to continue to reduce in size, streamlines manufacturing, and provides easier ways to test chip functionality.
Sales & Training
When asked how Brewer Science sells its products to customers, Mr. Ayres responded, “Mostly by direct sales. We have a global sales team with multiple sales and support offices in Europe and Asia. We also have a 25 plus-year licensing partnership with Nissan Chemical Corporation to manufacture and sell a portion of our material technology in Asia.”
Customer training is critical. Between ISO certifications and customer audits, the company maintains detailed training records. Brewer Science’s Learning and Development team uses an online learning management system to deliver and track required training.
The company’s response as to why export customers buy their products versus those of competitors, Mr. Ayres said, “We have a technological edge on many of our products, but many times it comes down to our application and customer support. We work closely with our customers to ensure that they achieve the outcome they desire, which may include consulting on their processes and possibly troubleshooting their equipment.”
Barriers to International Sales
“Our major hurdle lately has been the ongoing trade war with China, combined with the Chinese localization initiatives,” explained Becky Rich, Brewer Science Director, Legal. “While many of our packaging customers are in China, there is a preference there for Chinese-made materials, both from a desire for localization and due to customers’ hesitancies to purchase US-made materials for fear that supply could be interrupted by US export controls.”
She went on to point out that the best solution to this problem is to either move manufacturing overseas, either by establishing its own manufacturing facility or by licensing the technology to manufacture. “As a company that has always manufactured in Missouri,” she explained, “this would be a big change for us, but one we are forced to investigate.”
International Intellectual Property Protection
Ms. Rich explained, “Our products are protected by a combination of patents and trade secrets, so maintaining the secrecy or our technology during development and sometimes after commercialization is of utmost importance.”
She went on to point out, “We monitor competitors’ product offerings to see if there are any red flags that would lead us to believe that our patents may have been infringed or that trade secrets may have been misappropriated. How we handle enforcement depends on the situation, but it could range from simple cease-and-desist letters up to and including litigation.
Brewer Science continues to grow its semiconductor and other materials business worldwide. You can read much more about the company at www.brewerscience.com.
The US Department of Commerce appoints Brewer Science Executive to the CHIPS Act Advisory Committee
Brewer Science last month announced that Ken Joyce was appointed by US Department of Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo to serve a two-year term as a representative member of the Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC).
The IAC will provide advice on the science and technology needs of the nation’s domestic microelectronics industry, the national strategy on microelectronics research, the research and development programs, and other advanced microelectronics activities funded through CHIPS for America and opportunities for new public-private partnerships. Mr. Joyce will join 23 other leaders from a broad range of disciplines in the microelectronics field, including academia, the semiconductor industry, federal laboratories, and other areas.
Ms. Raimondo said, “CHIPS for America is a once-in-a-generation investment that will position the United States to lead the world in semiconductor research, manufacturing, design, entrepreneurship, and innovation for decades to come.”