Strategy reaffirmed

Comet technologies gain additional relevance.

In recent years Comet has developed into an important partner for customers in the semiconductor and electronics industry. This market has become an even greater focus for us as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has given additional impetus to the digitalization of industry and society. In 2020, Comet made big strides in the execution of its focus strategy set out in late 2019. As a preferred partner to OEMs in the semiconductor and electronics market, we are even better positioned to grow with our customers in these attractive sectors.

Growing digitalization and artificial intelligence as drivers, with pandemic accelerating transformation

Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Artificial intelligence (AI) is making its way into our daily lives. Already today, we receive recommendations generated by algorithms about which product or film might interest us on online platforms, or suggesting the best route for our car trip. Companies are stepping up their use of AI and have even begun to employ it to write software programs. The global Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for different uses of technology. More than ever, technology has become the vehicle for staying connected with nearby and faraway relatives, colleagues or customers, for installing products virtually and for shopping online or finding distraction in online gaming and video streaming. All this has led to a vast increase in the amount of data exchanged and processed, a further rise in demand for computing power, and an expansion of data infrastructure.

Comet technology enables critical processes

Semiconductor chips and sensors are the key building blocks of this digital world. And in their manufacture, Comet’s technologies play a critical role. The rapid penetration of digitalization therefore offers us great growth opportunities in our two core technologies of plasma control and x-ray: What both do for customers is to ensure the efficiency, quality and reliability of highly complex manufacturing steps in the respective applications.

The further advancement of computer chips, which for decades progressed in line with Moore’s Law (according to which the complexity of integrated circuits regularly doubles with minimum component costs), is reaching its physical limits. Conventional general-purpose processors are increasingly being replaced by application-specific chips. The market demands faster processors and shorter development times. The fabrication of high-performance microchips requires even more precise, reliable and stable processes, which Comet’s plasma control technology helps our customers provide. This trend is reflected in rising demand for plasma-technology-based equipment in wafer fabrication plants, in line with the growing production of 3D structures (3D NAND and FinFET). In addition, there is a growing need for integrated, software-based solutions that allow the manufacturing of microchips to be continuously improved and accelerated. Comet addresses this very potential. As the global market leader in vacuum capacitors and radio frequency (RF) matching networks, we already enjoy a good market position. By strengthening our product portfolio, we aim to continue to provide semiconductor equipment manufacturers and chipmakers with cutting-edge technologies to solve their growing challenges, and to expand our market – a market worth about USD 62.8 billion that, according to analysts, is growing at an average of about 6% a year. Comet intends to participate in this growth through, among other innovations, the radio frequency generator, which is currently in testing by customers and supports data-driven process analysis.

For the Group’s x-ray businesses as well, the trends in the semiconductor and electronics market hold high potential: Electronics firms are increasingly automating the production of critical components, building them additively, making them smaller and with ever less material. Individual “chiplets” are combined into high-performance multi-chip modules. Their inspection is demanding and requires the increased use of x-ray technology. As well, to safeguard the quality and safety of their products, manufacturers throughout traditional industries are placing growing emphasis on high-volume series testing and the automated improvement of their processes.

Data analysis and the development of new digital services are therefore gaining importance for Comet. As the market leader in high-performance x-ray tubes and one of the top vendors for 3D inspection of electronic components, we are very well positioned with our two x-ray divisions. We reached a milestone in our strategy implementation in 2020 with the acquisition of Canadian software manufacturer Object Research Systems (ORS), which brings crucial know-how and analysis tools for the development of future digital services. Also in 2020, with the newly launched MesoFocus x-ray tubes, Comet’s module business broke new ground by entering the semiconductor and electronics market, which is to become the division’s largest served market by the end of 2025.

Focus strategy confirmed, execution on track

By focusing on plasma control and x-ray technology, we defined in 2019 how we intend to exploit the significant potential of the digital world. Under the leadership of CEO Kevin Crofton, this strategy has been confirmed and tactically refined. The Comet Group will concentrate on its established technology segments of plasma control and x-ray, and thus on the three divisions Plasma Control Technologies, X-Ray Modules and X-Ray Systems. Having divested the ebeam business to Tetra Pak in 2020, we can now fully focus our resources on our core businesses.