Lam Research unveils latest tool for creating 3D chips

In a significant development, Lam Research Corp has released its first major new tool in two decades for producing more precise three-dimensional details on computer chips that play a vital role in today’s digital society.

Lam Research has also committed to boosting its dividends each year and returning more cash to investors.

Executives from Lam Research unveiled Sense.i, the company’s latest tool to etch features on silicon wafers to in order to make chips. In recent years, chip designers have run out of room to pack any more transistors side by side, following which they have started placing them upwards.

Crafting such three dimensional features has become key for Lam Research’s memory chip customers including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and SK Hynix Inc. Three dimensional chips can require etching as many as 1 trillion holes on a silicon wafer, said Vahid Vahedi, senior vice president and general manager of the etch product group at Lam Research.

Lam Research specializes in making the holes narrow and tall so as to pack more in the same space.

According to Lam Research executives, memory chip makers are likely to be the first adopters of its new tool, with computing chipmakers not being too far behind.

“This vertical scaling is a very strong driver of growth for us,” said Vahedi at the conference.

Lam Research has also committed to returning more free cash to shareholders.

“If you look at the breakdown of the cash return to shareholders, it’s been more allocated to buybacks, but given the dividend has grown every year, that’s an increasing percentage of the free cash flow return as well, and likely will continue to be over time,” said Bettinger in an interview.

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