Measuring up the competition JUSTEM CO., LTD

Website: JUSTEM CO., LTDExternal site: a new window will open
Category: Japanese Machinery

Wafer-thin semiconducting material

Semiconductor material is the foundation of the chips and electronic circuits that power modern electronics. Silicon, silicon carbide, sapphire and other types of semiconductor material are produced into thin, highly polished, circular discs known as "wafers," which typically range in diameter from 25.4mm to 300mm. The fabrication of integrated circuits and other microdevices built on the wafer is a delicate procedure, and it's critical that they're as close to perfect as possible. For that reason, Niigata Prefecture-based Justem Co., Ltd. designs and manufactures automated equipment to enable a defect-free production process. This includes machines for measuring and sorting by wafer thickness as well as other types of labor-saving processing and inspecting equipment for the semiconductor industry.

Justem's president, Yoshinari Shinbo

Justem's equipment supports quality control of wafers for the semiconductor industry

Transition to the semiconductor industry

The company's origins extend to 1998, when the father of the current president, Yoshinari Shinbo, was involved in making parts for the auto industry. However, the younger Shinbo's background was in semiconductors, so he shifted Justem's core business to this field in 2005. Initially a startup in the truest sense of the word, the transformed company employed only a handful of staff, who worked from a rented room. Justem eventually upgraded to a stand-alone location including product design space and a factory where equipment is assembled and tested; there's even a clean room where equipment is packaged before being shipped out.

Measuring without making contact

The company remains relatively small, currently employing a staff of 15, mostly engineers. Nonetheless, Justem's products serve major players in the semiconductor industry such as Canon, Denso and Shin-Etsu, which holds the largest market share in producing semiconductor material. Among the leading technologies Justem has created is the ability to measure wafer thickness in mere microns without making physical contact, something few competitors are able to offer. Justem is able to do this at a low cost and with flexibility, such as modifying equipment to fit a customer's limited production space.

Different colors in the circles shown on the screen indicate subtle irregularities in wafer thickness

A Justem employee working behind a protective dust cover makes custom adjustments to equipment to meet a customer's needs

A smaller organization offering personalized attention

Shinbo considers his company's size an advantage, as Justem works with customers to develop every machine exactly to their specifications. "We will go to the customer and study their production line to create the best equipment possible," he explains. Justem employees are engaged with their customers throughout the entire process, from the moment they express interest in equipment, through the design, contract and order process-and even after the purchase is made with maintenance support. This is a marked contrast from bigger competitors who supply more standard equipment and cannot afford such personalized attention.

Gaining a foothold in Taiwan

Much of the company's overseas focus is on Taiwan, which is the center of the semiconductor industry, and they have established an agent there. Justem has also shipped machines to China and Korea, and they're now hoping to expand to work with producers of semiconductor material in North America and Europe.

Website: JUSTEM CO., LTDExternal site: a new window will open