Hanwha Precision Machinery has won a deal with SK Hynix to supply thermal compression (TC) bonders used in the production of high-bandwidth memory (HBM), TheElec has learned.

With ASMPT (which Dutch equipment maker ASM is the largest shareholder with a 25% share) also agreeing to develop TC bonder under the South Korean memory maker’s requirements, competition from suppliers to win orders from SK Hynix is expected to intensify as the company launches its 12-stack HBM3E.

Hanwha Precision Machinery and SK Hynix signed a deal for the former to supply two units of TC bonders on June 10, sources said. They collaborated on the development of the TC bonder, which recently passed the quality test, they said.

This signals the end of Hanmi Semiconductor’s dominance in supplying TC bonder to SK Hynix as it was effectively the sole supplier of the equipment.

Hanwha’s two units are for evaluation and not production. SK Hynix plans to evaluate its production line with the bonders until the end of July. If the bonders pass the production line evaluation, the South Korean memory maker is expected to order them in bulk in the second half of the year.

SK Hynix was deeply involved in the development of Hanwha’s TC bonder from the start, the sources said.

Even if the equipment doesn’t pass the evaluations initially, it will take longer for the mass supply to happen, but the South Korean memory maker's aim to seek to diversify its TC bonder supply chain won’t change, they said. Hanwha was currently assembling the TC bonders at its factory in Changwon. 

TC bonders will have different process steps than before when it comes to 12-stack HBM3E as these will have thinner chip die than before. To prevent warpage, instead of the chip die being bonded and then going through a mass reflow (MR) process, SK Hynix will adopt what it calls heated mass reflow, or hMR, where the die is heated slightly during bonding.

SK Hynix is currently evaluating TC bonders from Hanmi Semiconductor, and ASMPT.

Hanmi Semiconductor’s can’t perform the heated mass reflow process so it is improving its bonders’ performance. SK Hynix also believes the bonders need to up their productivity. ASMPT’s is fairing better when it comes to heated mass reflow but their bonder is considered too large. ASMPT is also altering its bonder to meet SK Hynix’s requirement.

Hanwha’s performed better than Hanmi’s in the bonding of a sample, the sources said. The bonders that will be installed in June will go through additional tests on the production line.

SK Hynix is planning to purchase approximately 30 units of the TC bonders that can perform heated mass reflow in the second half of the year.