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Proponents of EUV, immersion lithography face off at SPIE

By Jeff Dorsch, contributing editor

The two main camps in optical lithography are arrayed for battle at the SPIE Advanced Lithography Symposium in San Jose, Calif.

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography, on one side, is represented by ASML Holding, its Cymer subsidiary, and ASML’s EUV customers, notably Intel, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

On the other side is 193i immersion lithography, represented by Nikon and its customers, which also include Intel and other leading chipmakers.

There are other lithography technologies being discussed at the conference, of course. They are bit players in the drama, so to speak, although there is a lot of discussion and buzz about directed self-assembly technology this week.

ASML broke big news on Tuesday morning, reporting that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing was able to expose more than 1,000 wafers in one day this year with ASML’s NXE:3300B EUV system. “During a recent test run on an NXE:3300B EUV system we exposed 1,022 wafers in 24 hours with sustained power of over 90 watts,” Anthony Yen, TSMC’s director of research and development, said at SPIE.

While ASML was obviously and justifiably proud of this milestone, after achieving its 2014 goal of producing 500 wafers per day, it cautioned that more development remains for EUV technology.

“The test run at TSMC demonstrates the capability of the NXE:3300B scanner, and moves us closer to our stated target of sustained output of 1,000 wafers per day in 2015,” ASML’s Hans Meiling, vice president service and product marketing EUV, said in a statement. “We must continue to increase source power, improve system availability, and show this result at multiple customers over multiple days.”

The day before, Cymer announced the first shipment of its XLR 700ix light source, which is said to improver scanner throughput and process stability for manufacturing chips with 14-nanometer features. The company also debuted DynaPulse as an upgrade option for its OnPulse customers. The XLR 700ix and DynaPulse together are said to offer better on-wafer critical dimension uniformity and provide stable on-wafer performance.

Another revelation at SPIE is that SK Hynix has been working with the NXE:3300, too, and is pleased with the system’s capabilities. According to Chang-Moon Lim, who spoke Monday morning, SK Hynix was recently able to expose 1,670 wafers over three days, with uptime of 86.3 percent over that period.

“Progress has been significant on various aspects, which should not be overshadowed by the delay of [light] sources,” he said of ASML’s EUV systems.

The Korean chipmaker is exploring how it could work without pellicles on the EUV reticle, Lim noted. ASML has been developing a pellicle, made with polycrystalline silicon, in cooperation with Intel and others.

Nikon Precision and other Nikon subsidiaries didn’t issue any press releases at SPIE. The companies presented much information at Sunday’s LithoVision 2015 event, held at the City National Civic auditorium, across the street from the San Jose Convention Center, where SPIE Advanced Lithography is staged.

On offer at the Nikon conference was the claimed superiority of 193i immersion lithography equipment to EUV systems for the 14nm, 7nm and future process nodes. Donis Flagello, Nikon Research Corp. of America’s president, CEO, and chief operating officer, emphasized that message on Tuesday morning with an invited paper on “Evolving optical lithography without EUV.”

Nikon’s champion machine is the NSR-S630D immersion scanner, which was touted throughout the LithoVision event. The system is capable of exposing 250 wafers per hour, according to Nikon’s Yuichi Shibazaki.

Ryoichi Kawaguchi of Nikon told attendees, “EUV lithography needs more stability and improvement.” He also brought up the topic of manufacturing on 450-millimeter wafers, which has mostly gone ignored in the lithography competition. Nikon will ship a 450mm system this spring to the Global 450 Consortium in Albany, N.Y., Kawaguchi said. The bigger substrates could provide “an alternative option to reduce cost,” he added.

Erik Byers of Micron Technology observed, “EUV is not a panacea.”

Which lithography technology will prevail in high-volume manufacturing? The question may not be definitively answered for some time.



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