Strategy execution on track
Comet technologies: More important than ever for a connected world.
For more and more people on our planet, the future is digital, networked and mobile. Driven by this advancing digitalization of industry and society, and accelerated by COVID-19, the semiconductor and electronics market is in a growth cycle of a completely new magnitude. As a supplier of critical technologies, Comet helps its customers manufacture the necessary ever-smaller and more powerful components more efficiently and in ways that conserve more resources. Comet is on track in the implementation of its focus strategy. As a preferred partner to our customers in the semiconductor and electronics industries as well as the automotive, aerospace and security sectors, we want to grow side by side with our clientele and contribute to a progressive world that remains good to live in.
Growing digitalization and use of artificial intelligence, with pandemic accelerating demand
We live in an ever more interconnected world, one that relies on semiconductors. In fact, since 2018, more data is created, stored and processed by machines than by people (see IDC Datasphere growth). From cars and cell phones to coffee makers, virtually no modern industrial product is conceivable today without microchips inside it. Algorithms based on artificial intelligence (AI) send us recommendations for new contacts, travel routes and product offers via smartphone, support medical diagnoses, help detect malware on our PC or suggest movies and TV series that match our profile. Companies and governments are stepping up the use of AI to write software programs, bring vaccines to market in record time, or design sustainable cities using digital twins. 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.
Demand for computer chips, already burgeoning thanks to the ever-growing number of digital applications, has been further boosted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Microchip demand outstripped supply in 2021 and, in combination with extreme weather events and product shipping backlogs, led to chip shortages in many applications. This has motivated governments to increase their investment in local production and supply chains.
Comet technology enables critical manufacturing process
Semiconductor chips and sensors are the key building blocks of this digital world. In their manufacture, Comet’s technologies play a critical role. The rapid and inexorable progression of digitalization therefore offers Comet excellent growth opportunities in its two core technologies of plasma control and x-ray. What both do for customers is to safeguard 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 density of integrated circuits regularly doubles with minimum component costs), is approaching its physical limits. The market demands high-performance chips with faster processing speeds – in ever shorter development cycles. The fabrication of these powerful microchips requires even more precise, reliable and stable production processes. This manifests itself in rising demand for plasma technology-based equipment for the production of 3D chip structures, new memory (3D NAND) and even new microprocessor chips.
Comet’s products are essential to the fabrication of advanced chips and components
As the global market leader in vacuum capacitors and RF matching networks, Comet already enjoys a strong market position. By further strengthening our product portfolio, we aim to provide semiconductor equipment manufacturers and chipmakers with cutting-edge technologies for solving their increasing challenges, and to expand our market, i.e., the RF power subsystem market, which is worth about USD 1.6 billion and, according to analysts, is growing at an average of about 5% a year. In particular, Comet intends to participate in this growth through the new radio frequency generator Synertia(TM)– which supports data-driven process analysis and has been successful in early beta tests with customers – as well as through other innovations such as a new RF match controller.
For the Group’s x-ray businesses as well, the trends in the semiconductor and electronics market hold rich 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 ensure the quality and safety of their products, manufacturers throughout industry 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 fast gaining in 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, the Comet Group is very well positioned with its two x-ray divisions. Thanks to the first joint development projects and workflows realized with the subsidiary Object Research Systems, acquired in 2020 as a leading provider of 3D visualization and analysis software for sophisticated 2D/3D imaging studies, Comet is enabling its x-ray system customers to identify defects in such complex microchips ever more quickly and reliably (see video: How are microchips built?). With the successful expansion of the product portfolio of high-performance x-ray tubes (through introduction of the MesoFocus and FXE series), Comet’s modules business too made inroads in the semiconductor and electronics market in 2021. It is to become the division’s largest market by the end of 2025.
Focus strategy being executed
By focusing on plasma control and x-ray technologies, Comet intends to exploit the significant potential of the digital world. Following the divestiture of the ebeam business, 2021 was the first year in which Comet was able to focus fully on the three divisions’ established technologies of plasma control and x-ray, as well as on expanding the service business by leveraging artificial intelligence.