Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below is a short list of our most Frequently Asked Questions.  If you are looking for more information, browse our website or contact CMC.

Who is Cabot Microelectronics?

Cabot Microelectronics Corporation, headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, is the world’s leading supplier of CMP polishing slurries and second largest CMP pads supplier to the semiconductor industry. The company’s products play a critical role in the production of advanced semiconductor devices, enabling the manufacture of smaller, faster and more complex devices by its customers.  A number of our employees began developing CMP slurries some two decades ago for IBM, who pioneered CMP processing of ICs.

What is Chemical Mechanical Planarization (CMP)?

Chemical Mechanical Planarization or “CMP” is a process used by semiconductor chipmakers to polish a silicon wafer to achieve a near-perfect flat and smooth surface, upon which layers of integrated circuitry are built. Using a chemical slurry formulation and mechanical polishing process to remove unwanted conductive or dielectric materials, CMP enables chipmakers to achieve higher-performance chips for advanced applications.

What is CMP slurry?

CMP slurries are highly engineered chemical formulations that smooth and flatten the wafer surface. CMP slurries prepare the wafer for subsequent photolithography steps, in which the pattern of the integrated circuit is imaged onto the wafer surface. Cabot Microelectronics’ R&D center engages in ongoing development of new CMP slurries to fulfill chipmakers’ next generation process requirements, including development of slurries for copper, aluminum, polysilicon and oxide polishing.

What is a CMP polishing pad?

CMP polishing pads are used in conjunction with a polishing slurry and mechanical pressure to achieve wafer planarity and to dispose of unwanted particles. Polishing pads play a critical role in providing highly consistent and reliable CMP process results. Leveraging its expertise in CMP process, Cabot Microelectronics developed Epic® polishing pads, which provide a new level of process performance and consistency, plus an extended pad life.

Where is Cabot Microelectronics located?

The company has an extensive global presence, with regional offices in China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Europe, in addition to the world headquarters located in the U.S.A.   A new R&D/manufacturing center is planned to be opened in South Korea in 2011.   Click here for a map of company locations and resources.

Why is CMP such an important part of the IC manufacturing process?

By using CMP, chipmakers are able to produce smaller ICs with more electronic characteristics, improving chip speed and performance. It is the critical factor in extending the productivity gains of photolithography, allowing the depth of field to significantly shrink. The surface of a CMP-processed wafer is ultra-smooth, also a critical requirement in the fabrication of shallow-trench isolation structures and polygates. In addition, CMP helps reduce the number of defective ICs produced, which increases IC yield, or the number of “good” chips on a wafer. Improvements in throughput and yield reduce an IC manufacturer’s total production costs.

How are chipmakers using CMP to make smaller, faster and more complex ICs and improve their production efficiency?

CMP becomes increasingly important to IC manufacturers as the size of ICs shrink and their complexity increases. CMP is required for the efficient manufacturing of today’s advanced ICs, which typically have feature sizes of many thousand times thinner than the thickness of a human hair.

How does Cabot Microelectronics maintain its strong market position?

The company is constantly improving and enhancing its products to keep pace with the evolving needs of semiconductor chipmakers. Cabot Microelectronics has assembled a highly skilled R&D staff that includes a wide range of scientists and applications specialists. People, technology and experience enable the company to continuously refine existing products and optimize new products to meet and exceed customers’ needs. Concurrently, Cabot Microelectronics provides strong customer service, applications support and a world-class supply chain.

How does Cabot Microelectronics use its experience in the semiconductor industry to serve the data storage industry?

The company has a complete line of CMP slurries for hard disk drives, which are used to polish the substrates and magnetic heads employed in the data storage industry.