6. Manufacturing

6. Manufacturing

The technologies in the Manufacturing technology category support much of the industry in the United States. In some cases, the technologies improve our ability to make a familiar substance such as polyethylene. In other cases, as with some new alloys, they open the use of a new material by producing it economically, changing a material from a laboratory curiosity to a commercial force. In still other cases, the technologies improve our abilities to design and to create a product, and to manage that overall process.

The following technology areas are addressed in the Manufacturing category:

Discrete Product Manufacturing
Continuous Materials Processing
Micro/Nanofabrication and Machining

Discrete Product Manufacturing encompasses the most important technological developments in improving our ability to create manufactured products, from the ordinary--an automobile or a television, to the more exotic-- a cooled turbine blade. As such, the technologies are important across the breadth of the manufacturing sector, both for the economic health of that sector and for its ability to create leading edge weaponry for the military.

Continuous Materials Processing concentrates on the developments of most importance to the chemical, petrochemical, and some solid materials industries. These are characterized by a continuous production of materials, which are usually then used in other processes or products. These industries, and thus these technologies, are important both economically and for the military. These technologies also often have the potential to reduce the harmful environmental effects either of alternative industrial processes or of other processes, as energy generation. This is both an end in itself and a growing industry in its own right.

Microfabrication refers to the creation of physical structures with a characteristic scale size of one micron, a millionth of a meter. Historically, this has been, and remains, important to the electronics industry, although other applications have also arisen. Nanofabrication refers to the creation of smaller structures, down to the control and arrangement of individual atoms. Such techniques are still developing, but offer fascinating potential. Both areas are also developing rapidly.

The United States is either on par or in the lead in all technology areas in this technology category. While this is not true in some individual technologies, such as the low and medium technology plastic packaging for semiconductor chips in which the Japanese lead, the United States either leads outright or is well-positioned for the future in all other specific technologies included in the report. The specifics of the assessment are presented in the text of the section. The summary of the U.S. relative position and trends from 1990 to 1994 are shown in Figure 6.1.

Discrete Product Manufacturing

This technology area supports most of the manufacturing sector. The technology sub-areas encompass the most important technological developments in improving our ability to create manufactured products, from the ordinary products-- an automobile or a television--to the more exotic products such as a cooled turbine blade. As such, the technologies are important across the breadth of the manufacturing sector, both for the economic health of that sector and for its ability to produce affordable leading edge weaponry for the military.

CIM support software

Computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) combines manufacturing hardware and software technologies to integrate product, process, and manufacturing management information into a single interactive network, greatly reducing the number of "transactions" necessary to produce a product. Although only in the initial stages of industrial implementation, CIM systems are significantly increasing productivity and lowering manufacturing costs by linking previously independent portions of the production cycle such as computer-aided design terminals and numerically controlled machine tools (usually integrated manufacturing cells) that actually produce the finished part. CIM incorporates a number of other technologies that are industries unto themselves, such as CAD/CAM, machines tools, controllers, material handling equipment, data management software, and robotics. CIM support software allows the movement of information between parts of the manufacturing process, and is thus the key to making CIM work.

This technology contributes to several national economic prosperity goals. Its major contribution is to job creation and economic growth because it is an essential part of the new manufacturing infrastructure centered on computer- controlled manufacturing. For example, by contributing to producibility and lower costs of "clean cars," CIM support software plays an important role in making clean cars more economically viable and giving U.S. industry advantage in the new generation of vehicles for world markets. It provides one of the tools which can be used to excel at the products and processes identified by the NEMI as essential for future competitiveness of U.S. electronics industry in world markets. It provides the capabilities to work with new materials tailored specifically to the needs of automotive, electronics, construction and aircraft industries, and is essential to the design and economic production of sophisticated new automobiles and aircraft. Finally, CIM support software contributes to the harnessing of information technology because many of the physical components of the information infrastructure, e.g., integrated circuits, can be manufactured more productively with reliance on CIM.

By increasing the efficiency of the industrial base, CIM support software also helps U.S. national security by increasing the efficiency of the industrial base used for defense applications--particularly important in times of falling procurement budgets.

European developers have made rapid gains during the past few years and are at rough technological parity with the United States in CIM technology. Japan will probably continue to lag in CIM because of an inability to link the various portions of the manufacturing cycle through sophisticated software. Two key factors affecting the future of CIM technologies will be the battle for dominance of operating systems and the adoption of international data standards. Standardization of manufacturing data would greatly facilitate the exchange of information and, in turn, ease the implementation of CIM.

The United States and Europe are generally ahead of Japan in development of software for manufacturing applications. The U.S. CADAM software package is exceptionally useful for transferring CAD data into numerical control programs, and the recent integration of CADAM with the French CATIA design software provides a powerful system with significant capability for both design and transferring CAD data to production equipment on the shop floor. A large number of competing vendors provide software tailored for various industries and company sizes, running on a variety of platforms. This enables even smaller companies to afford some CAD/CAM capability. Major Japanese companies, on the other hand, tend to use proprietary software, and their smaller companies must purchase foreign software for CAD and CIM applications. Although the Japanese packages used in proprietary applications may be of similar quality to U.S. and European products, the relative lack of off-the-shelf packages in Japan is a market disadvantage.

Equipment interoperability

Equipment interoperability addresses the ability of entire factories to be connected, to share designs and information, and to optimize the manufacturing process. It can also allow sharing between different companies involved in the manufacturing process. As such, it shares the contributions to the future as outlined above for CIM, upon which it depends. In terms of specific technologies, this sub-area includes the CAPP and factory scheduling tools that allow organizational optimization. It also includes the information systems needed to tie together disparate manufacturing operations.

The full contributions of CIM and equipment interoperability can only be captured when the organizations adopt a management method appropriate to their flexibility. This method can be called "lean" or, as in the Defense Technology Plan, Advanced Manufacturing Processes. In a sense, this managerial method is the most important application of these technologies. Together, equipment interoperability, CIM support software, intelligent processing equipment, and the advanced manufacturing processes are important to the health of much of the U.S. manufacturing industry, and thus important to economic growth and national security.

A worldwide movement is underway to standardize factory automation computer data with a focus on CAD/CAM/CAE information. The emerging international standard is called the Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP), and nearly all manufacturers recognize it as the future protocol for data transfer/translation in industry. Because of its probably impact on worldwide manufacturing, both Japan and Europe are actively contributing to the formation and structure of STEP.

Intelligent processing equipment

Intelligent processing equipment is manufacturing equipment that uses controllers and sensors to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process. These sense the state of the tools and the parts and provide feedback to modify the fabrication instructions to meet the design.

Intelligent processing equipment is an important contributor to job creation and economic growth because it is an important part of the new manufacturing infrastructure based on computer-controlled design and production equipment. Specifically, it allows improvements in aircraft production by allowing for variation in materials, tighter tolerances, and greater automation. It also makes partnerships more effective by allowing companies to use shared design and production data. PNGV is one such partnership--decreasing cost and increasing quality of clean cars would make them more economically competitive. NEMI is another such partnership.

Intelligent processing equipment also contributes to harnessing information technology. It provides a specific and sophisticated application for research on software algorithms which combine material characteristics and sensor outputs with spatial and temporal definitions of finished parts. It also allows individual companies to take advantage of databases and networked systems for manufacturing, giving them greater access to information relevant to their products and production processes.

By increasing the efficiency of the industrial base, intelligent processing equipment also helps U.S. national security by increasing the efficiency of the industrial base used for defense applications. Such equipment can efficiently produce equipment from new materials and in new shapes and to tolerances that might be different from those for commercial equipment without having to be specifically designed and constructed for the purpose.

Europe, Japan, and the United States are at overall parity with respect to shop floor level hardware. Japan is ahead in using computer numerical controls (CNCs) and flexible- manufacturing systems--particularly in smaller companies, indicating a significant depth of capability. Only 20 percent of small- to medium-size U.S. manufacturers use CNC technology, while 50 percent of comparable Japanese companies take advantage of CNC. Most of this technology is considered to be below the CIM level but, nevertheless, forms an important market strength and supports the development of upper-level CIM and CAD/CAM systems. At the highest technology levels for CNC, however, Japan is being challenged. ARPA and NIST are developing the next-generation controller that may be used in future CIM applications. European ESPRIT programs also have similar efforts underway to create their next generation controller.


Robotics, in its full meaning, refers to an autonomous system, capable of responding to much greater uncertainty in its environment than the flexible manufacturing systems currently in use. Robotics are discussed in greater detail in Intelligent Complex Adaptive Systems/Autonomous Robotic Devices under Information and Communication.

Automated systems for facilities operations

Automated systems for facilities operations are systems that track and adjust resource usage as needed. There are two specific types of technologies under discussion here. One is the automatic ability to monitor and adjust the operating environment in the building. The other is the ability to use automation to control inventories and materials flow during the production process.

Computer controlled management systems for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting can provide a better environment for human activities at much lower energy consumption and dollar cost than conventional manual controls. "Smart buildings" that offer real-time information about energy usage and costs also allow building owners and tenants to become more energy efficient. Building automation systems are an important part of the physical infrastructure of the future, leading to many changes in the way buildings are designed and built. Automated systems will allow more precise control of environments which will reduce wasteful use of resources, providing important competitive benefits to U.S. firms. It will have a similar effect on other kinds of facilities. Defense manufacturing facilities are likely to benefit in the same way as civilian manufacturing facilities.

Automated monitoring and control of the production cycle, especially of parts flow and inventory, is improving the efficiency and productivity of U.S. industry. Computers that track inventory levels and automatically originate purchase requests when inventories reach pre-specified levels allow a more efficient use of inventories and more efficient production of parts and sub-assemblies. Automated scheduling allows for a better loading of production equipment and more efficient production schedules. However, many of these systems are not yet linked in a meaningful way with CAD, CAE, and financial systems of companies.

Japan and Europe lag the United States in computer controlled management systems for production flow. For example, advanced systems such as Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) and Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP II) are computerized manufacturing control and support systems that plan and execute production by matching inventory and materials needs. By tracking availability vs. factory need and automatically originating purchase requests, production is kept moving on a predetermined schedule. Because these technologies are software-intensive, Japanese firms have not yet made large inroads in these areas. Rather, Japanese manufacturing depends more on Just-in-Time and other manufacturing practices that are less software-intensive, but highly effective in dealing with material and production flows. For the most part, Europe is not limited by software capabilities and is pursuing production flow technologies similar to those in the United States.

Net shape processing

Net shape processing refers to any manufacturing process which creates an object in its finished form without the need for finish machining or other actions. The obvious benefit is in the saved labor needed for finishing, and the consequent cost savings. Less obvious is the potential for quicker production, which fits better the overall lean production paradigm. Net shape processes are as familiar as the forming of glass bottles or the injection molding of simple plastics. What is new is the applicability of these methods to new materials. An example that appears to be important to the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle is production of polymer composite parts where small fibers are included in an injection system. Other techniques, such as superplastic forming, are applicable to other materials, in this case, superalloys.

The major contribution of net shape processing is to job creation and economic growth because it enables cost reduction in the manufacturing process and makes some applications economically feasible. For example, net shape processing is important for economic fabrication of potential next generation vehicle power plants such as small gas turbines. Additionally, injected composite parts are likely to play a large role in the weight reduction sought in the program. Net shape processing contributes to other sectors of the economy by improving economic feasibility of working with non-traditional materials, e.g., superalloys and ceramics for turbine blades.

Net shape processing contributes to national security by contributing to the strength of the industrial base.

Europe and the United States are essentially equal in application of superplastic forming (SPF) of titanium and aluminum products. European firms have used SPF to produce secondary aircraft structural components. France's ACB Alsthom is equal to U.S. firms in development of commercial SPF press equipment and systems. The UK Superform Company leads the world in aluminum SPF, and its French and U.S. subsidiaries provide those countries with substantial capability. Japan trails slightly, but has a very strong research program that may contribute to an eventual lead in some aspects of the technology. However, their small aerospace industry has generated few practical applications. No country has mastered solid state bonding of aluminum SPF components in the same processing step.

Rapid solidification processing

Rapid solidification processes allows the creation of new alloys. Some metals, when together in a melt, segregate. By spraying or otherwise adding the metals in controlled amounts directly into the solid phase, new compositions can be fabricated. In some cases, these alloys have unusual temperature properties, or high strength. Rapid solidification processing strengthens the industrial base for both commercial and military applications by improving the ability to work with difficult to shape materials. As a result, parts with better characteristics can be created in the longer term.

Both Europe and Japan are slightly behind the United States in rapid solidification processing, or powder metallurgy technology, and are expected to remain in that position over at least the next several years. Development of powder metal technology within Europe has been led by turbine engine manufacturers in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Capabilities have grown through a combination of indigenous development and acquisition of technology through joint ventures with U.S. companies. Japanese firms also have a strong powder metallurgy R&D program established for both the automotive and aerospace industries, with laboratory work rivaling that of the U.S. leaders. However, they tend to lag the United States in applications. The Japanese appear to be content to remain near the leading edge of technology, without undertaking the increased risk of pushing the technologies to new levels.

Continuous Materials Processing

This technology area concentrates on the developments of most importance to industries such as chemicals, petrochemicals, and some solid materials which are characterized by continuous production, the end products of which are usually then used in other processes or products. These industries, and thus these technologies, are important both economically and to support the military. These technologies also often have the potential to reduce the harmful environmental consequences of certain processes.


Catalysts are materials which speed up a chemical reaction without being consumed by it. In many cases, this speed-up makes a reaction commercially important, and the catalyst vital. An example of such criticality is the catalyst in a polymer electrolyte fuel cell. At the low temperature of that fuel cell, about 100[[exclamdown]]C, the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen that produces the power would proceed at such a slow rate as to be only a curiosity. Noble metal catalysts make the rate useful for a host of applications, perhaps including transportation. As our ability to design materials on the atomic level has grown, new possibilities seem promising, as for artificial zeolites. Very different catalysts are those created in biological systems, where they are the base for metabolism and many other functions. Here, there is a potential to create new drugs.

Catalysts are important to the near-term aims of the Partnership for the New Generation Vehicle. In particular, a NOx catalyst is important in enabling options like a lean- burn diesel. Catalysis can be an important step in removing key contaminants, both from power plant effluent and from process plants, contributing to efficient energy production and utilization. Catalysis is also important to the chemical and petroleum industries, where advances have created many new products and processes, from Kevlar at DuPont to the Monsanto process for acetic acid. The importance of catalysis should increase as our ability to analyze and to design catalysts improves.

The United States has historically led in the technologies of catalysis, which supports our strong chemical and petrochemical industries. In fact, much of the research in catalysis is funded by those industries and remains proprietary. Overall, the United States remains the world leader in petroleum catalysis; is among the world leaders in catalysis for commodity and specialty chemicals; and is improving in environmentally related catalysis.

Several European nations and Japan support research in catalysis generally, recognizing the importance of the area. This has produced important new discoveries in those nations. The most striking such recent development is the revolution in olefin polymerization, which promises widespread benefits or cost savings for most polymers. The new developments in metallocene catalysts were discovered in two German universities, and are now being aggressively developed in Europe, the United States, and Japan. In the United States, these compounds are being aggressively developed both by Dow Chemical Corporation and Exxon. While the United States is still the overall world leader in catalysis, and so was able to exploit this breakthrough quickly, the competition is getting stronger.

Surface treatments

Surface treatments include various hardening techniques, from chemical to laser, and range all the way to thin films, an example also of artificial structuring. In general, the treatments offer a way to tailor the surface properties of a material without changing the bulk properties. This allows very hard cutting tools to have great strength and toughness, for example, or allowing materials to survive very corrosive conditions.

Surface treatments provide better finishes and higher quality materials for several industries and applications. Particularly important are ceramic "hot" parts for turbine engines. Surface treatments provide improved military equipment capabilities by creating parts with better finishes and increased durability. Although militarily distinct applications are rare today, some parts of high speed aircraft and submarines require surface treatments different from those available in civilian markets.

The United States and Japan are world leaders in diamond thin-film technology. With products such as diamond tool bits and heat sinks already on the market, both countries are aggressively funding research toward advanced applications such as diamond-based semiconductor devices, integrated circuits, displays, and biomedical coatings. The United States is very strong in some applications, such as military products and diamond windows for infrared transmitting devices. However, Japan has a focused government research program targeting electronics and optical device applications--areas which industry experts predict will eventually account for most of the market for diamond films. While Europe and the rest of the world trail significantly in technology and funding, over two dozen countries worldwide are pursuing basic research. However, given the funding levels in Japan and the United States, Europe and the rest of the world will likely need increased efforts to become competitive.

Ultrapure refining methods

Refining methods which produce ultrapure materials are important for a number of commercial and national defense applications. As feature sizes of integrated circuits get progressively smaller, the purity of the semiconductor materials from which they are fabricated has historically been increasingly important. Development of extremely pure semiconductor crystals is also important for optoelectronic and photonic applications. More recently, chemical vapor deposition and similar thin film techniques have been used to create a pure silicon layer on top of a wafer. That layer is then used to build the actual devices. Consequently, ever increasing the purity of the underlying ingot has become relatively less important to microelectronics. Some processes, such as silicon-on-insulator, even obviate the need for very pure ingots, but the dominant current processes still demand significant purity.

Ultrapure materials are also important for structural applications, since microscopic impurities can cause cracks in ceramics and ceramics-based composites. In general, ultrapure refining methods include micro-gravity and high- pressure fabrication methods which suppress convection currents in the material and allow even distribution of impurities or their elimination.

Internationally, Japan and Germany still lead in the creation of large, pure ingots of semiconductor materials. The ability to create ever larger ingots of pure silicon remains important to advanced microelectronics.

Pollution avoidance

Pollution avoidance technologies are those technologies that "avoid the production of environmentally hazardous substances or alter human activities in ways that minimize damage to the environment. These technologies include equipment, processes, and process sensors and controls designed to prevent or minimize the generation of pollutants, hazardous substances, or other damaging materials, as well as technologies used in product substitution or in recycling and recovery of useful raw materials, products, and energy waste streams. Prevention may include incremental changes to existing manufacturing infrastructure, such as replacing volatile organic compounds with aqueous cleaning systems, using more efficient motors or lighting, or substituting a less hazardous intermediary. But it may also involve substantial changes in industrial infrastructure, such as near net shape casting, no-coke steel making, or entirely redesigned processes (design for environment). Such extensive changes in production processes usually require development of a new attitude toward doing business. They are labeled with different names in various sectors of the economy. Examples in the manufacturing sector are "design for the environment" or "green design." In agriculture, the descriptive phrase is "sustainable agriculture systems."[1]

According to the Environmental Technologies Expert Working Group, process industries such as chemicals, petroleum refining, and pulp/paper, which are large sectors in the U.S. economy and have an international presence, can especially benefit from advances in this area. As worldwide environmental regulation becomes stricter, companies that incorporate pollution prevention technologies into their products and processes will gain competitive advantage. Increased sales of equipment would contribute to job creation in the U.S. A further contribution to economic prosperity is expressed by the contribution of pollution prevention technologies to the success of the PNGV. Sectors of the economy most directly affected are Manufacturing and Transportation and Utilities, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, and Mining. Pollution prevention technologies also contribute to the health of the U.S. population by contributing to the security of food and water, and to improvements in environmental quality.

Because of the worldwide focus on the environment, the United States, Japan, and Europe all have a wide range of pollution minimization programs and technologies. There is no clear overall leader. In one important area-- developing alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)--Japan, the United States, and to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom have taken the lead. Reductions in manufacturing costs and the development of application-specific products and processes will largely determine competitive position in the next few years. CFC-related research is likely to continue at its present rapid rate or to increase in response to tougher regulations. Japanese and German firms, both with government support, have launched research programs to develop CFC alternatives. Japan, because of its electronics industry, is emphasizing research in solvent technology and has begun to market solvent substitutes and solvent recovery/recycling systems domestically. Germany, is using financial aid and technological assistance to promote its hydrocarbon-based domestic refrigeration program.

Predictive process control

Predictive process control involves the ability to monitor and control a continuous materials process in real time. This allows the conditions of the process to be adjusted quickly and responsively, and avoids the delay associated with only monitoring the final product.

Advancing the state of the art in predictive process control requires advances in sensor capability, in data communications and data processing, and in modeling. Improved interfaces with operators, usually via graphic displays, will also provide improved control system performance. The most important class of sensors for this sub-area is non-imaging sensors which can be used to measure a vast range of phenomenology such as temperature, pressure, humidity, radiation, voltage, current, or presence of a particular chemical or biological material. In addition to passive sensors, there are active sensors based usually on lasers. Specialized microsensors can be used to detect particular chemical or biological agents. The information generated by the sensors must be combined and processed using data processing and models specific to the process being monitored.

The potential of this technology sub-area is great, as it can improve the yields and productivity of a wide range of industrial processes. It can also contribute to the reduction in unwanted or polluting side processes.

The United States is a major player in all of the technologies which make up predictive process control. For example, historically Honeywell has had a major presence, having introduced the first distributed control system (the Honeywell TDC 2000) in 1975. Honeywell continues to be a leader, advancing the state of the art with the introduction of the TDC 3000, which incorporates protocols to address modeling errors. Honeywell smart transmitters are available to provide data to the control system. Other U.S. players include Rosemount, Foxboro, Digital, Setpoint, DMCC, and Gensym.

Many other countries are also players in this area, however. In the UK, BNFL has developed the Promass advanced control system, and Predictive Control has developed an advanced controls package called Connoisseur. In Germany, Siemens Industrial Automation, AEG, and Lockner Moeller have been leaders in designing control systems with open architecture. The Japanese company, Yokogawa, is active in the International Fieldbus Consortium. Little information about Japanese work in this field is available in open English- language literature.

At this time one of the more important "battles" in the development of predictive control systems is being waged over the development of standards and protocols to enable communications between field-level devices (such as transducers, actuators, and local controllers) and supervisory controllers. Organizations competing to develop standards include the ISP (InterOperable Systems Project), whose standards are based largely on Profibus (process fieldbus) technology, which is a German national standard, and thus very popular in Europe; the International Fieldbus Consortium, which promotes the IEC Fieldbus; and the widely supported breakaway group WorldFIP, which is a global organization formed to develop an open, universal, fieldbus specification based on the best of both the Factory Information Protocol and emerging versions of the IEC/ISA standard.

Another trend of interest is the recent tendency for companies working in different but interacting areas of advanced control to form strategic alliances, or even outright acquisitions. For example, Honeywell, with expertise in control systems, modeling, and sensor technologies has entered a working agreement with Masonelian, which makes control valves. Usually, the companies are from the same country, such as Honeywell's acquisitions of Profimatics, Inc., and Allied Data Communications, but this is not always the case. Foxboro, for example, has recently signed an agreement with Maihak AG of Germany for reciprocal marketing of analytical products.

Micro/Nanofabrication and Machining

Microfabrication refers to the creation of physical structures with a characteristic scale size of one micron, a millionth of a meter. Nanofabrication refers to the creation of smaller structures, down to the control and arrangement of individual atoms. While grouped together here and bearing some similarities such as the use of vacuum facilities to avoid surface contamination, the techniques used differ dramatically in accordance with the scale involved. Nonetheless, both areas are developing rapidly.

Recently, the production processes used for the fabrication of integrated circuits (chemical etching, material deposition, lithography, etc.) have been used to make mechanical structures. A number of technical problems, such as lubrication, micro batteries, temperature compensation and others, will probably prevent useful applications of microscopic analogs of conventional machines (motors, drills, robot arms, etc.) for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, resonant microbeams are already being used to sense linear and rotational acceleration. The ability to combine these mechanical structures and electronic circuitry on the same piece of silicon is important both economically and militarily.

Microdevice manufacturing technologies

Microdevice manufacturing technologies have the long-term potential to change and influence many areas. Many machine tools can be significantly improved with better sensors and finer control over tiny details. By creating tiny devices, microdevice manufacturing technologies may make possible new classes of much lighter satellites. Many microsensors, including biosensors and chemical sensors, have the potential to be mass produced once the individual steps are created. Thus, microfabrication techniques have become very important to sensor technology as miniaturized, integrated systems have become possible. New instruments, such as ever finer atomic force microscopes and derived instruments, involve such technologies and create improvements to infrastructure for world class science. In the longer term, there is a possibility of creating integrated computers and small machines for a variety of applications. Many of the applications described above would be useful for both commercial and military purposes.

The United States is the world leader in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)--miniature mechanical devices integrated with microelectronic devices on the same substrate. Japan and Europe (Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) all have MEMS R&D programs, with Japan's being the largest. Much of the Japanese research is geared toward medical and industrial microdevice applications. MEMS is not limited to silicon micromachining but may also include metallic and polymeric micromachining technologies as well as other microelectronic fabrication techniques.

Semiconductor manufacturing

Microfabrication remains the basic manufacturing technology of the semiconductor industry. Semiconductor manufacturing technologies are concerned with the creation of smaller structures for semiconductor chips. The methods are based on silicon, and structure the surface of the silicon. Here, the trend continues to ever smaller device sizes using shorter wavelength light in optical systems. At some future point, other technologies, whether x-ray lithography, electron beam lithography, or other ideas, will take over, and such technologies appear as specific technologies in the list. Developing the methods to continue the push to ever smaller device sizes is important to the health of our electronics industry and to the creation of defense systems that rely upon such advanced devices.

Semiconductor manufacturing technologies are essential to the success in production of next-generation integrated circuits. Given the importance of these ICs to the U.S. economy, semiconductor manufacturing technologies make a major contribution to the economic prosperity of the U.S. through job creation in the semiconductor and downstream industries. In addition, these technologies enable harnessing of information technology by creating improved components for computing systems, and by enabling better interface devices for human-computer interactions.

Given the importance of semiconductors in such military applications as computing, simulation, and smart weapons, semiconductor manufacturing technologies make a significant contribution to a number of national security goals. They enable the creation of components for real-time knowledge of the enemy and near-real-time distribution of this knowledge to the fighting forces, contributing to the JCS Top 5 Future Warfighting Capabilities as well.

Although the Japanese dominate the low and medium technology used in semiconductor plastic packages, there is overall parity in the most advanced packaging technologies. Companies from Japan, Europe, South Korea, and the United States have all demonstrated advanced package types, such as multichip modules, although the materials used to make them are produced mostly by Japanese companies. These advanced packages are capable of housing high-density semiconductors-- or many semiconductor devices--with increased system performance, reduced space requirements, and lower costs. In some leading-edge areas, the United States has benefited from a more sophisticated military market than exists in Japan. U.S. companies are actively moving this technology into the commercial world.

Semiconductor integration technologies

Semiconductor integration technologies are technologies for combining multiple integrated circuits into efficient modules for performance of complex tasks. Integration technologies are essential for creating economically competitive multi-component systems. They also involve improvements in materials technologies because they involve advanced ceramics and other materials. Semiconductor integration technologies also contribute to harnessing information technology by reducing costs of components for computing systems and by creating multi-chip modules which allow faster movement of electrons between ICs.

Semiconductor integration technologies contribute to national security and warfighting capabilities. By creating smaller and faster equipment with multi-chip systems, semiconductor integration technologies contribute to a capability for real-time knowledge of the enemy and its near-real-term distribution to the fighting forces.

Japan and the United States are roughly comparable across the entire range of semiconductor manufacturing equipment; Europe lags slightly. In one of the single most important areas-- optical lithography--firms in Japan, Europe, and the United States all have generally comparable technology, even though Japanese firms have a substantial lead in market share. Companies from each region have leading-edge capability in state-of-the-art, i-line wafer steppers; all are developing successor wafer stepper systems using excimer lasers--rather than mercury arc lamps--to generate deep ultraviolet light for shorter wavelengths. Japanese firms are benefiting from one major U.S. lithography firm going out of business in 1993 and another U.S. firm licensing its advanced technology to Canon. Some observers believe that Japanese firms will eventually pull ahead of their competitors and acquire technology leads as a result of their growing market strength and extensive R&D programs. Japanese and European firms currently have a slight technology lead in R&D for X-ray lithography, the possible next generation of semiconductor lithography equipment. Japan has developed many synchrotron orbital radiation sources for x-ray lithography while the United States has relied on the UK firm, Oxford Instruments, one of the world leaders. Much of the Japanese work has been pushed by the government, with corporate commitment weakening as optical lithography capabilities improve. European R&D is also quite good but less extensive than Japanese efforts. Japan is also strong in other advanced lithography areas, such as ion-beam devices, in which they are only slightly behind the best U.S. work. Neither is likely to be a mainstream production technique for a long time, but could have limited applications in mask production or repair.

Japanese, European, and U.S. firms are generally equal in tester technology. European and U.S. firms improved their position in VLSI logic testers in recent years by shifting to a tester-per-pin technology while their Japanese rivals stayed too long with the older shared-resource technology. A Japanese firm, however, responded by bringing out a VLSI logic tester with tester-per-pin architecture and probably the fastest data rate and largest pin count now available. Each of the major tester areas is led by a company from a different region. Schlumberger, a European company--with its operations based in the United States--leads the logic test sector. Advantest, a Japanese company, leads the memory test sector. Teradyne, a U.S. firm, leads the linear/mixed signal sector. Foreign competitors are likely to slip further in technology. As the semiconductor market shifts more to complex logic devices such as microprocessors, U.S. tester companies will respond to their demands for faster and more capable testers and become stronger competitors to the Japanese and European firms.

Artificial structuring methods

Artificial structuring of materials refers to the ability to layer and combine materials on a microscopic level. This small scale ordering using thin film deposition technologies makes it possible to generate novel properties that could not necessarily be predicted from the initial material constituents, and provide the ability to generate both new materials and on a new scale. The current largest-scale manufacturing efforts rely largely on sputter deposition and spin-on coating technologies. However, the development of new materials is increasingly reliant on more advanced techniques such as chemical vapor deposition and molecular beam epitaxy.

Artificial structuring methods have enabled major advances in a diverse range of industries. Such manufacturing capabilities are the enabling technologies for end products in defense, information technology, manufacturing, energy, and transportation systems. From a commercial perspective, these techniques have produced tremendous growth in microelectronics, high-density data storage, and photonics. The dependence of information and communication technologies on such products highlights the importance of the underlying manufacturing capabilities. Future development of micromechanical systems also depend on the precise control of thin film properties. The evolution of more sophisticated manufacturing techniques is critical to the realization of advanced coatings with enhanced hardness, corrosion- resistance, thermal, and wear characteristics. One of the most exciting candidates is the large-scale production of high-quality diamond thin films because of their hardness, wear-resistance, and very good thermal conductivity at extremely low temperatures. Some of the techniques allow systems of lower dimensionality or very small scale to be created, which, in turn allows examination of fundamental material properties.

Given the increasing dependence of the military on high- technology products, it is apparent that continued investment in artificial structuring methods is essential for sustained security. For example, the manufacture of high-definition displays is dependent, among other things, on advanced thin film techniques. Also, the successful development of diamond coatings has applications ranging from aircraft windshield coatings to high speed electronic components. Artificial structuring methods clearly strengthen the S&T base and the industrial base for defense production, as well as allowing for the creation of products that can be used in new environments and to fulfill new missions

The United States has improved its technology position in several other areas of semiconductor manufacturing equipment in recent years. Japanese and European firms are slightly behind in chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technology as U.S. firms have taken the lead in introducing new high-density plasma CVD systems for 0.35-micron devices. Japanese and European firms are unlikely to gain substantially on U.S. firms in CVD equipment over the next few years, because several U.S. firms have strong technology leads over their rivals. Japanese and European firms also lag U.S. firms in physical vapor deposition (PVD) technology and markets. A U.S. company has pioneered the introduction of technology that has resulted in low particulate contamination levels and excellent and consistent film properties. Japanese firms have also been slow to match U.S. firms which have led the trend toward cluster tools, capable of integrating different semiconductor manufacturing steps. Foreign firms are also substantially behind the United States in ion implantation technology and are likely to continue in this position. One U.S. firm--the market leader--introduced new high-current and medium current ion implantation systems in early 1994. Japanese and European companies also lag U.S. companies in dry-etch equipment. According to some industry observers, the U.S. has taken the lead because the fabrication of such complex logic devices as advanced microprocessors requires more levels of metal--and more dry etching. Japanese firms are working to improve their technology capability in dry etch equipment and are likely to close the gap somewhat. Two Japanese companies, Canon and Anelva, have licensed a U.S. company's plasma source technology.

[1] National Science and Technology Council, pp. 42-43.

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