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High-NA EUV Lithography Investment

Monday, November 28th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

As covered in a recent press release, leading lithography OEM ASML invested EUR 1 billion in cash to buy 24.9% of ZEISS subsidiary Carl Zeiss SMT, and committed to spend EUR ~760 million over the next 6 years on capital expenditures and R&D of an entirely new high numerical aperture (NA) extreme ultra-violet (EUV) lithography tool. Targeting NA >0.5 to be able to print 8 nm half-pitch features, the planned tool will use anamorphic mirrors to reduce shadowing effects from nanometer-scale mask patterns. Clever design and engineering of the mirrors could allow this new NA >0.5 tool to be able to achieve wafer throughputs similar to ASML’s current generation of 0.33 NA tools for the same source power and resist speed.

The Numerical Aperture (NA) of an optical system is a dimensionless number that characterizes the range of angles over which the system can accept or emit light. Higher NA systems can resolve finer features by condensing light from a wider range of angles. Mirror surfaces to reflect EUV “light” are made from over 50 atomic-scale bi-layers of molybdenum (Mo) and silicon (Si), and increasing the width of mirrors to reach higher NA increases the angular spread of the light which results in shadows within patterns.

In the proceedings of last year’s European Mask and Lithography Conference, Zeiss researchers reported on  “Anamorphic high NA optics enabling EUV lithography with sub 8 nm resolution” (doi:10.1117/12.2196393). The abstract summarizes the inherent challenges of establishing high NA EUVL technology:

For such a high-NA optics a configuration of 4x magnification, full field size of 26 x 33 mm² and 6’’ mask is not feasible anymore. The increased chief ray angle and higher NA at reticle lead to non-acceptable mask shadowing effects. These shadowing effects can only be controlled by increasing the magnification, hence reducing the system productivity or demanding larger mask sizes. We demonstrate that the best compromise in imaging, productivity and field split is a so-called anamorphic magnification and a half field of 26 x 16.5 mm² but utilizing existing 6’’ mask infrastructure.

Figure 1 shows that ASML plans to introduce such a system after the year 2020, with a throughput of 185 wafers-per-hour (wph) and with overlay of <2 nm. Hans Meiling, ASML vice president of product management EUV, in an exclusive interview with Solid State Technology explained why >0.5 NA capability will not be upgradable on 0.33 NA tools, “the >0.5NA optical path is larger and will require a new platform. The anamorphic imaging will also require stage architectural changes.”

Fig.1: EUVL stepper product plans for wafers per hour (WPH) and overlay accuracy include change from 0.33 NA to a new >0.5 NA platform. (Source: ASML)

Overlay of <2 nm will be critical when patterning 8nm half-pitch features, particularly when stitching lines together between half-fields patterned by single-exposures of EUV. Minimal overlay is also needed for EUV to be used to cut grid lines that are initially formed by pitch-splitting ArFi. In addition to the high NA set of mirrors, engineers will have to improve many parts of the stepper to be able to improve on the 3 nm overlay capability promised for the NXE:3400B 0.33 NA tool ASML plans to ship next year.

“Achieving better overlay requires improvements in wafer and reticle stages regardless of NA,” explained Meiling. “The optics are one of the many components that contribute to overlay. Compare to ArF immersion lithography, where the optics NA has been at 1.35 for several generations but platform improvements have provided significant overlay improvements.”

Manufacturing Capability Plans

Figure 2 shows that anamorphic systems require anamorphic masks, so moving from 0.33 to >0.5 NA requires re-designed masks. For relatively large chips, two adjacent exposures with two different anamorphic masks will be needed to pattern the same field area which could be imaged with lower resolution by a single 0.33 NA exposure. Obviously, such adjacent exposures of one layer must be properly “stitched” together by design, which is another constraint on electronic design automation (EDA) software.

Fig.2: Anamorphic >0.5 NA EUVL system planned by ASML and Zeiss will magnify mask images by 4x in the x-direction and 8x in the y-direction. (Source: Carl Zeiss SMT)

Though large chips will require twice as many half-field masks, use of anamorphic imaging somewhat reduces the challenges of mask-making. Meiling reminds us that, “With the anamorphic imaging, the 8X direction conditions will actually relax, while the 4X direction will require incremental improvements such as have always been required node-on-node.”

ASML and Zeiss report that ideal holes which “obscure” the centers of mirrors can surprisingly allow for increased transmission of EUV by each mirror, up to twice that of the “unobscured” mirrors in the 0.33 NA tool. The holes allow the mirrors to reflect through each-other, so they all line up and reflect better. Theoretically then each >0.5 NA half-field can be exposed twice as fast as a 0.33 NA full-field, though it seems that some system throughput loss will be inevitable. Twice the number of steps across the wafer will have to slow down throughput by some percent.

White two stitched side-by-side >0.5 NA EUVL exposures will be challenging, the generally known alternatives seem likely to provide only lower throughputs and lower yields:

*   Double-exposure of full-field using 0.33 NA EUVL,

*   Octuple-exposure of full-field using ArFi, or

*   Quadruple-exposure of full-field using ArFi complemented by e-beam direct-writing (EbDW) or by directed self-assembly (DSA).

One ASML EUVL system for HVM is expected to cost ~US$100 million. As presented at the company’s October 31st Investor Day this year, ASML’s modeling indicates that a leading-edge logic fab running ~45k wafer starts per month (WSPM) would need to purchase 7-12 EUV systems to handle an anticipated 6-10 EUV layers within “7nm-node” designs. Assuming that each tool will cost >US$100 million, a leading logic fab would have to invest ~US$1 billion to be able to use EUV for critical lithography layers.

With near US$1 billion in capital investments needed to begin using EUVL, HVM fabs want to be able to get productive value out of the tools over more than a single IC product generation. If a logic fab invests US$1 billion to use 0.33 NA EUVL for the “7nm-node” there is risk that those tools will be unproductive for “5nm-node” designs expected a few years later. Some fabs may choose to push ArFi multi-patterning complemented by another lithography technology for a few years, and delay investment in EUVL until >0.5 NA tools become available.

—E.K.

D2S Releases 4th-Gen IC Computational Design Platform

Friday, September 30th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

D2S (www.design2silicon.com) recently released the fourth generation of its computational design platform (CDP), which enables extremely fast (400 Teraflops) and precise simulations for semiconductor design and manufacturing. The new CDP is based on NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs and Intel Haswell CPUs, and is architected for 24×7 cleanroom production environments. To date, 14 CDPs across four platform generations are in use by customers around the globe, including six of the latest fourth generation. In an exclusive interview with SemiMD, D2S CEO Aki Fujimura stated, “Now that GPUs and CPUs are fast-enough, they can replace other hardware and thereby free up engineering resources to focus on adding value elsewhere.”

Mask data preparation (MDP) and other aspects of IC design and manufacturing require ever-increasing levels of speed and reliability as the data sets upon which they must operate grow larger and more complex with each device generation. The Figure shows a mask needed to print arrays of sub-wavelength features includes complex curvilinear shapes which must be precisely formed even though they do not print on the wafer. Such sub-resolution assist features (SRAF) increase in complexity and density as the half-pitch decreases, so the complexity of mask data increases far more than the density of printed features.

Sub-wavelength lithography using 193nm wavelength requires ever-more complex masks to repeatably print ever smaller half-pitch (HP) features, as shown by (LEFT) a typical mask composed of complex nested curves and dots which do not print (RIGHT) in the array of 32nm HP contacts/vias represented by the small red circles. (Source: D2S)

GPUs, which were first developed as processing engines for the complex graphical content of computer games, have since emerged as an attractive option for compute-intensive scientific applications due in part to their ability to run many more computing threads (up to 500x) compared to similar-generation CPUs. “Being able to process arbitrary shapes is something that mask shops will have to do,” explained Fujimura. “The world could go 193nm or EUV at any particular node, but either way there will be more features and higher complexity within the features, and all of that points to GPU acceleration.”

The D2S CDP is engineered for high reliability inside a cleanroom manufacturing environment. A few of the fab applications where CDPs are currently being used include:

  • model-based MDP for leading-edge designs that require increasingly complex mask shapes,
  • wafer plane analysis of SEM mask images to identify mask errors that print, and
  • inline thermal-effect correction of eBeam mask writers to lower write times.

“The amount of design data required to produce photomasks for leading-edge chip designs is increasing at an exponential rate, which puts more pressure on mask writing systems to maintain reasonable write times for these advanced masks. At the same time, writing these masks requires higher exposure doses and shot counts, which can cause resist proximity heating effects that lead to mask CD errors,” stated Noriaki Nakayamada, group manager at NuFlare Technology. “D2S GPU acceleration technology significantly reduces the calculation time required to correct these resist heating effects. By employing a resist heating correction that includes the use of the D2S CDP as an OEM option on our mask writers, NuFlare estimates that it can reduce CD errors by more than 60 percent, and reduce write times by more than 20 percent.”

In the E-beam Initiative 2015 survey, the most advanced reported mask-set contained >100 masks of which ~20% could be considered ‘critical’. The just released 2016 survey disclosed that the most complex single-layer mask design written last year required 16 TB of data, however platforms like D2S’ CDP have been used to accelerate writing such that the average reported write times have decreased to a weighted average of 4 hours. Meanwhile, the longest reported mask write time decreased from 72 to 48 hours.

EUV Resists and Stochastic Processes

Friday, March 4th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

In an exclusive interview with Solid State Technology during SPIE-AL this year, imec Advanced Patterning Department Director Greg McIntyre said, “The big encouraging thing at the conference is the progress on EUV.” The event included a plenary presentation by TSMC Nanopatterning Technology Infrastructure Division Director and SPIE Fellow Anthony Yen on “EUV Lithography: From the Very Beginning to the Eve of Manufacturing.” TSMC is currently learning about EUVL using 10nm- and 7nm-node device test structures, with plans to deploy it for high volume manufacturing (HVM) of contact holes at the 5nm node. Intel researchers confirm that they plan to use EUVL in HVM for the 7nm node.

Recent improvements in EUV source technology— 80W source power had been shown by the end of 2014, 185W by the end of 2015, and 200W has now been shown by ASML—have been enabled by multiple laser pulses tuned to the best produce plasma from tin droplets. TSMC reports that 518 wafers per day were processed by their ASML EUV stepper, and the tool was available ~70% of the time. TSMC shows that a single EUVL process can create 46nm pitch lines/spaces using a complex 2D mask, as is needed for patterning the metal2 layer within multilevel on-chip interconnects.

To improve throughput in HVM, the resist sensitivity to the 13.54nm wavelength radiation of EUV needs to be improved, while the line-width roughness (LWR) specification must be held to low single-digit nm. With a 250W source and 25 mJ/cm2 resist sensitivity an EUV stepper should be able to process ~100 wafer-per-hour (wph), which should allow for affordable use when matched with other lithography technologies.

Researchers from Inpria—the company working on metal-oxide-based EUVL resists—looked at the absorption efficiencies of different resists, and found that the absorption of the metal oxide based resists was ≈ 4 to 5 times higher than that of the Chemically-Amplified Resist (CAR). The Figure shows that higher absorption allows for the use of proportionally thinner resist, which mitigates the issue of line collapse. Resist as thin as 18nm has been patterned over a 70nm thin Spin-On Carbon (SOC) layer without the need for another Bottom Anti-Reflective Coating (BARC). Inpria today can supply 26 mJ/cm2 resist that creates 4.6nm LWR over 140nm Depth of Focus (DoF).

To prevent pattern collapse, the thickness of resist is reduced proportionally to the minimum half-pitch (HP) of lines/spaces. (Source: JSR Micro)

JEIDEC researchers presented their summary of the trade-off between sensitivity and LWR for metal-oxide-based EUV resists:  ultra high sensitivity of 7 mJ/cm2 to pattern 17nm lines with 5.6nm LWR, or low sensitivity of 33 mJ/cm2 to pattern 23nm lines with 3.8nm LWR.

In a keynote presentation, Seong-Sue Kim of Samsung Electronics stated that, “Resist pattern defectivity remains the biggest issue. Metal-oxide resist development needs to be expedited.” The challenge is that defectivity at the nanometer-scale derives from “stochastics,” which means random processes that are not fully predictable.

Stochastics of Nanopatterning

Anna Lio, from Intel’s Portland Technology Development group, stated that the challenges of controlling resist stochastics, “could be the deal breaker.” Intel ran a 7-month test of vias made using EUVL, and found that via critical dimensions (CD), edge-placement-error (EPE), and chain resistances all showed good results compared to 193i. However, there are inherent control issues due to the random nature of phenomena involved in resist patterning:  incident “photons”, absorption, freed electrons, acid generation, acid quenching, protection groups, development processes, etc.

Stochastics for novel chemistries can only be controlled by understanding in detail the sources of variability. From first-principles, EUV resist reactions are not photon-chemistry, but are really radiation-chemistry with many different radiation paths and electrons which can be generated. If every via in an advanced logic IC must work then the failure rate must be on the order of 1 part-per-trillion (ppt), and stochastic variability from non-homogeneous chemistries must be eliminated.

Consider that for a CAR designed for 15mJ/cm2 sensitivity, there will be just:

145 photons/nm2 for 193, and

10 photons/nm2 for EUV.

To improve sensitivity and suppress failures from photon shot-noise, we need to increase resist absorption, and also re-consider chemical amplification mechanisms. “The requirements will be the same for any resist and any chemistry,” reminded Lio. “We need to evaluate all resists at the same exposure levels and at the same rules, and look at different features to show stochastics like in the tails of distributions. Resolution is important but stochastics will rule our world at the dimensions we’re dealing with.”

—E.K.

Many Mixes to Match Litho Apps

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

“Mix and Match” has long been a mantra for lithographers in the deep-sub-wavelength era of IC device manufacturing. In general, forming patterns with resolution at minimum pitch as small as 1/4 the wavelength of light can be done using off-axis illumination (OAI) through reticle enhancement techniques (RET) on masks, using optical proximity correction (OPC) perhaps derived from inverse lithography technology (ILT). Lithographers can form 40-45nm wide lines and spaces at the same half-pitch using 193nm light (from ArF lasers) in a single exposure.

Figure 1 shows that application-specific tri-layer photoresists are used to reach the minimum resolution of 193nm-immersion (193i) steppers in a single exposure. Tighter half-pitch features can be created using all manner of multi-patterning processes, including Litho-Etch-Litho-Etch (LELE or LE2) using two masks for a single layer or Self-Aligned Double Patterning (SADP) using sidewall spacers to accomplish pitch-splitting. SADP has been used in high volume manufacturing (HVM) of logic and memory ICs for many years now, and Self-Aligned Quadruple Patterning (SAQP) has been used in HVM by at least one leading memory fab.

Fig.1: Basic tri-layer resist (TLR) technology uses thin Photoresist over silicon-containing Hard-Mask over Spin-On Carbon (SOC), for patterning critical layers of advanced ICs. (Source: Brewer Science)

Next-Generation Lithography (NGL) generally refers to any post-optical technology with at least some unique niche patterning capability of interest to IC fabs:  Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV), Directed Self-Assembly (DSA), and Nano-Imprint Lithography (NIL). Though proponents of each NGL have dutifully shown capabilities for targeted mask layers for logic or memory, the capabilities of ArF dry and immersion (ArFi) scanners to process >250 wafers/hour with high uptime dominates the economics of HVM lithography.

The world’s leading lithographers gather each year in San Jose, California at SPIE’s Advanced Lithography conference to discuss how to extend optical lithography. So of all the NGL technologies, which will win out in the end?

It is looking most likely that the answer is “all of the above.” EUV and NIL could be used for single layers. For other unique patterning application, ArF/ArFi steppers will be used to create a basic grid/template which will be cut/trimmed using one of the available NGL. Each mask layer in an advanced fab will need application-specific patterning integration, and one of the rare commonalities between all integrated litho modules is the overwhelming need to improve pattern overlay performance.

Naga Chandrasekaran, Micron Corp. vice president of Process R&D, provided a fantastic overview of the patterning requirements for advanced memory chips in a presentation during Nikon’s LithoVision technical symposium held February 21st in San Jose, California prior to the start of SPIE-AL. While resolution improvements are always desired, in the mix-and-match era the greatest challenges involve pattern overlay issues. “In high volume manufacturing, every nanometer variation translates into yield loss, so what is the best overlay that we can deliver as a holistic solution not just considering stepper resolution?” asks Chandrasekaran. “We should talk about cost per nanometer overlay improvement.”

Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV)

As touted by ASML at SPIE-AL, the brightness and stability and availability of tin-plasma EUV sources continues to improve to 200W in the lab “for one hour, with full dose control,” according to Michael Lercel, ASML’s director of strategic marketing. ASML’s new TWINSCAN NXE:3350B EUVL scanners are now being shipped with 125W power sources, and Intel and Samsung Electronics reported run their EUV power sources at 80W over extended periods.

During Nikon’s LithoVision event, Mark Phillips, Intel Fellow and Director of Lithography Technology Development for Logic, summarized recent progress of EUVL technology:  ~500 wafers-per-day is now standard, and ~1000 wafer-per-day can sometimes happen. However, since grids can be made with ArFi for 1/3 the cost of EUVL even assuming best productivity for the latter, ArFi multi-patterning will continue to be used for most layers. “Resolution is not the only challenge,” reminded Phillips. “Total edge-placement-error in patterning is the biggest challenge to device scaling, and this limit comes before the device physics limit.”

Directed Self-Assembly (DSA)

DSA seems most suited for patterning the periodic 2D arrays used in memory chips such as DRAMs. “Virtual fabrication using directed self-assembly for process optimization in a 14nm DRAM node” was the title of a presentation at SPIE-AL by researchers from Coventor, in which DSA compared favorably to SAQP.

Imec presented electrical results of DSA-formed vias, providing insight on DSA processing variations altering device results. In an exclusive interview with Solid State Technology and SemiMD, imec’s Advanced Patterning Department Director Greg McIntyre reminds us that DSA could save one mask in the patterning of vias which can all be combined into doublets/triplets, since two masks would otherwise be needed to use 193i to do LELE for such a via array. “There have been a lot of patterning tricks developed over the last few years to be able to reduce variability another few nanometers. So all sorts of self-alignments.”

While DSA can be used for shrinking vias that are not doubled/tripled, there are commercially proven spin-on shrink materials that cost much less to use as shown by Kaveri Jain and Scott Light from Micron in their SPIE-AL presentation, “Fundamental characterization of shrink techniques on negative-tone development based dense contact holes.” Chemical shrink processes primarily require control over times, temperatures, and ambients inside a litho track tool to be able repeatably shrink contact hole diameters by 15-25 nm.

Nano-Imprint Litho (NIL)

For advanced IC fab applications, the many different options for NIL technology have been narrowed to just one for IC HVM. The step-and-pattern technology that had been developed and trademarked as “Jet and Flash Imprint Lithography” or “J-FIL” by, has been commercialized for HVM by Canon NanoTechnologies, formerly known as Molecular Imprints. Canon shows improvements in the NIL mask-replication process, since each production mask will need to be replicated from a written master. To use NIL in HVM, mask image placement errors from replication will have to be reduced to ~1nm., while the currently available replication tool is reportedly capable of 2-3nm (3 sigma).

Figure 2 shows normalized costs modeled to produce 15nm half-pitch lines/spaces for different lithography technologies, assuming 125 wph for a single EUV stepper and 60 wph for a cluster of 4 NIL tools. Key to throughput is fast filling of the 26mmx33mm mold nano-cavities by the liquid resist, and proper jetting of resist drops over a thin adhesion layer enables filling times less than 1 second.

Fig.2: Relative estimated costs to pattern 15nm half-pitch lines/spaces for different lithography technologies, assuming 125 wph for a single EUV stepper and 60 wph for a cluster of 4 NIL tools. (Source: Canon)

Researchers from Toshiba and SK Hynix described evaluation results of a long-run defect test of NIL using the Canon FPA-1100 NZ2 pilot production tool, capable of 10 wafers per hour and 8nm overlay, in a presentation at SPIE-AL titled, “NIL defect performance toward high-volume mass production.” The team categorized defects that must be minimized into fundamentally different categories—template, non-filling, separation-related, and pattern collapse—and determined parallel paths to defect reduction to allow for using NIL in HVM of memory chips with <20nm half-pitch features.

—E.K.

What’s the Next-Gen Litho Tech? Maybe All of Them

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The annual SPIE Advanced Lithography symposium in San Jose, Calif., hasn’t offered a clear winner in the next-generation lithography race. It’s becoming clearer, however, that 193i immersion and extreme-ultraviolet lithography will co-exist in the future, while directed self-assembly, nanoimprint lithography, and maybe even electron-beam direct-write technology will fit into the picture, too.

At the same time, plasma deposition and etching processes are assuming a greater interdependence with 193i, especially when it comes to multiple patterning, such as self-aligned double patterning, self-aligned quadruple patterning, and self-aligned octuple patterning (yes, there is such a thing!).

“We’ve got to go down to the sub-nanometer level,” Richard Gottscho, Lam Research’s executive vice president of global products, said Monday morning in his plenary presentation at the conference. “We must reduce the variability in multiple patterning,” he added.

Gottscho touted the benefits of atomic level processing in continuing to shrink IC dimensions. Atomic level deposition has been in volume production for a decade or more, he noted, and atomic level etching is emerging as an increasingly useful technology.

When it comes to EUV, “it’s a matter of when, not if,” the Lam executive commented. “EUV will be complementary with 193i.”

Anthony Yen, director of nanopatterning technology in the Infrastructure Division of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, followed Gottscho in the plenary session. “The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she’s on the stage,” he said of EUV.

Harry Levinson, senior director of GlobalFoundries, gave the opening plenary presentation, with the topic of “Evolution in the Concentration of Activities in Lithography.” He was asked after his presentation, “When is the end?” Levinson replied, “We’re definitely not going to get sub-atomic.”

With that limit in mind, dozens of papers were presented this week on what may happen before the semiconductor industry hits the sub-atomic wall.

There were seven conferences within the symposium, on specific subjects, along with a day of classes, an interactive poster session, and a two-day exhibition.

The Alternative Lithographic Technologies conference was heavy on directed self-assembly and nanoimprint lithography papers, while also offering glimpses at patterning with tilted ion implantation and multiphoton laser ablation lithography.

“Patterning is the battleground,” said David Fried, Coventor’s chief technology officer, semiconductor, in an interview at the SPIE conference. He described directed self-assembly as “an enabler for optical lithography.”

Mattan Kamon of Coventor presented a paper on Wednesday afternoon on “Virtual fabrication using directed self-assembly for process optimization in a 14nm DRAM node.”

DSA could be used in conjunction with SAQP or LELELELE, according to Fried. While some lithography experts remain leery or skeptical about using DSA in high-volume manufacturing, the Coventor CTO is a proponent of the technology’s potential.

“Unit process models in DSA are not far-fetched,” he said. “I think they’re pretty close.  The challenges of EUV are well understood. DSA challenges are a little less clear. There’s no ‘one solution fits all’ with DSA.” Fried added, “There are places where DSA can still win.”

Franklin Kalk, executive vice president of technology for Toppan Photomasks, is open to the idea of DSA and imprint lithography joining EUV and immersion in the lithography mix. “It will be some combination,” he said in an interview, while adding, “It’s a dog’s breakfast of technologies. Don’t ever count anything out.”

Richard Wise, Lam’s technical managing director in the company’s Patterning, Global Products Groups CTO Office, said EUV, when ready, will likely be complementary with multipatterning for 7 nanometer.

Self-aligning quadruple patterning, for example, was once considered “insanity” in the industry, yet it is a proven production technology now, he said.

While EUV technology is “very focused on one company,” ASML Holding, there is a consensus at SPIE that EUV’s moment is at hand, Wise said. Intel’s endorsement of the technology and dedication to advancing it speaks volumes of EUV’s potential, he asserted.

“Lam’s always excelled in lot-to-lot control,” an area of significant concern, Wise said, especially with all of this week’s talk about process variability.

What will be the final verdict on the future of lithography technology? Stay tuned.

ASML Details Advances in DUV, Metrology, EUV

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

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By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

ASML Holding is glad to talk about its continuing progress in extreme-ultraviolet lithography technology. But first, the company has some information about its deep-ultraviolet scanners, as well.

ASML continues to ship its TWINSCAN NXT: 1980Di immersion lithography systems, which are capable of processing 275 wafers per hour, according to Michael Lercel, ASML’s director of strategic marketing.

Since shipments began last year, the 1980Di is exhibiting overlay numbers that are “slightly better than expected,” Lercel said Wednesday at the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference in San Jose, Calif. ASML aimed to make the 193i litho system “ a little bit more robust” than its predecessor, the TWINSCAN NXT: 1970Ci, he added. The 1970Ci can be upgraded in the field to the 1980Di’s capabilities, according to the company.

The 1980Di can be utilized in a combination of lithography techniques, including single exposure, lithography-etch-lithography-etch, sidewall spacers, and self-aligned double patterning, Lercel said. It offers the kind of variability control needed for self-aligned quadruple patterning, he added.

The ASML executive also addressed the company’s new YieldStar 350E metrology system, which he said can “correct for overlay errors” and “apply corrections to upstream and downstream problems,” using “a lot of overlay data.”

On the EUV front, Lercel said ASML has made “a lot of progress in the last 12 to 18 months.” At its facilities in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, the company has been able to operate a power source for its EUV systems at 200 watts “for one hour, with full dose control,” he noted.

That’s approaching its high-volume manufacturing target of 250W, according to Lercel. ASML continues to predict its EUV scanners will move into volume production applications in the 2018-19 timeframe, he said.

Intel and Samsung Electronics this week reported running their EUV power sources at 80W over extended periods.

The new TWINSCAN NXE:3350B scanners are now being shipped with 125W power sources, Lercel noted. ASML has demonstrated 80 percent availability in the field, including scheduled downturns, bringing EUV close to matching immersion lithography, Lercel said. Regarding availability, “we need to do better in consistency,” he acknowledged.

ASML has “multiple EUV systems at multiple customers,” Lercel said. In addition to Intel and Samsung, the company’s EUV scanners are also being used at GlobalFoundries, SK Hynix, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, among others not yet identified by the equipment vendor.

ASML this week reported reaching a deal with Nippon Control System on integrating optical proximity correction to mask data preparation on a common platform.

Laser Suppliers Move Past the Neon Gas Crisis

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

That neon gas shortage? So 2015.

The supply issue continues, as armed conflict heats up in eastern Ukraine, site of a plant that supplies a majority of the neon gas used in the world. Cymer and Gigaphoton, the big suppliers of excimer lasers for lithography that use neon as a buffer gas, have worked around the shortage, including the recycling of gas exhaust from their lasers.

“Prices have somewhat stabilized,” said Joe Ganeshan, sales manager for Gigaphoton USA. “We’re still in a crisis.”

Pricing for neon gas last year rose by 10 to 20 times, according to Ted Cacouris, product marketing director at the Cymer subsidiary of ASML Holding. One gas supplier in Ukraine was behind more than half of the world’s supply, and transporting the gas out of the conflict zone became haphazard, he noted.

The spike in neon gas prices peaked in 2015’s late summer and early fall, Cacouris said. As semiconductor manufacturers adjusted to the shortage, “prices started rolling over,” he added.

Cymer and Gigaphoton both implemented recycling programs in response to the supply situation, dramatically reducing neon gas consumption for their customers. Ganeshan estimated his company’s customers saved around $90 million a year as a result, while Cacouris put the figure at about $200 million.

In addition to reducing neon-gas consumption, Gigaphoton is moving to eliminate the use of helium in chipmaking, citing the U.S. government’s plans to cut off supply of the unrenewable gas in the near future. Used as a purging gas in argon fluoride 193i immersion lithography scanners, helium will be replaced with nitrogen, Ganeshan said.

Putting the neon-gas crisis in the rearview mirror, Cymer and Gigaphoton are turning to other pressing issues as suppliers of the light sources used in immersion and extreme-ultraviolet lithography systems.

Gigaphoton claimed to have improved its market share in excimer lasers for semiconductor manufacturing to 60 percent or more in 2015.

Cymer’s Cacouris cast doubt on that figure, without disclosing his company’s market share last year. Japan-based Gigaphoton greatly benefited from the exchange rate on the yen, gaining a 20 percent pricing advantage as a result, he asserted.

He described Gigaphoton’s claim as “a bit optimistic,” adding, “They’ve had some progress; they’ve had a few wins.” Cacouris vowed, “We’re going to do a lot better this year.”

Before the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference in San Jose, Calif., Gigaphoton announced that it is establishing new support bases in Dalian and Xiamen, China. The company also said it has received supplier awards from United Microelectronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

Canon, Toshiba Join eBeam Initiative Group

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The eBeam Initiative announced that Canon and Toshiba are new members of the industry organization, which seeks to promote the use of electron-beam technology in semiconductor manufacturing and design.

Canon Nanotechnologies and Toshiba are closely collaborating on the development of nanoimprint lithography technology. Both companies presented papers on Tuesday morning at the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference in the session devoted to “Nanoimprint Lithography Production Readiness.”

The eBeam Initiative additionally announced that it will expand its education efforts in 2016 to support the development of extreme-ultraviolet lithography, multi-beam mask writing, and nanoimprint lithography, all of which employ e-beam techniques in producing photomasks, or master templates in the case of NIL.

“People believe multi-beam is going to happen,” said Aki Fujimura, chief executive officer of D2S, the managing company sponsor of the e-beam group. He cited the group’s annual survey of industry figures, who last year predicted multi-beam mask-writing tools would be used in high-volume manufacturing for critical-layer photomasks by the end of 2018. This industry acknowledgement of advances in multi-beam mask writing “gives confidence,” Fujimura said at the eBeam Initiative’s annual luncheon at the SPIE Advanced Lithography symposium.

More than 100 luncheon attendees heard presentations by representatives of Dai Nippon Printing, the photomask manufacturer; imec, the research and development organization based in Belgium; and NuFlare Technology, a supplier of e-beam mask writers, mask inspection systems, and epitaxial reactors.

Naoya Hayoshi of DNP reported on the basics of NIL, which he said faces “some challenges, as in mask making.”

Praveen Raghavan of imec spoke about the organization’s development of test chips with 5-nanometer features. One was made with self-aligned quadruple patterning, using a 193i immersion scanner, while the other was fabricated with an EUV scanner.

The EUV technology offers “significant wafer cost benefit and enables 2D BEOL,” Raghavan said.

NuFlare’s Hiroshi Matsumoto spoke about the company’s forthcoming MBM-1000 multi-beam mask-writing system, an alpha version of which is currently in operation at the NuFlare facilities in Yokohama, Japan. NuFlare plans to offer a HVM version of the MBM-1000 by the end of this year, he said, with delivery in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The MBM-1000 is targeted at production of 5nm chips, while its successor, the MBM-2000, will address fabrication of 3nm ICs, according to Matsumoto. The MBM-2000 will be released in 2019, he said.

ASML Has Record Revenue for 2015; Will Raise Dividend, Buy Back More Stock

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

ASML Holding today reported net income of about $1.5 billion on revenue of $6.855 billion for 2015. That compared with 2014’s net income of $1.3 billion on revenue of $6.385 billion.

In the fourth quarter, the company posted net income of $318.3 million on revenue of $1.563 billion. Those figures were lower than the third quarter.

ASML said it sold 144 new lithography systems last year, up from 116 in 2014. It also sold 25 used systems, against 20 units a year earlier.

The 2015 sales represented a record for the supplier of advanced lithography equipment. ASML forecast sales for 2016’s first quarter would exceed $1.4 billion.

The company said it would raise its annual dividend to shareholders by 50 percent, to 1.05 euros per share, and will spend an additional $1.09 billion in 2016-2017 repurchasing its shares.

“As we indicated three months ago, we expect our logic customers to take shipments of our leading-edge immersion tools in the second quarter in preparation of their 10-nanometer node ramp. As a result, we expect second-quarter sales to increase significantly from the first-quarter level,” ASML President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink said in a statement.

ASML stated that its extreme-ultraviolet lithography line “met its 2015 productivity and availability targets. We had already achieved a productivity of more than 1,000 wafers per day early in 2015 on the NXE:3300B system and improved this to more than 1,250 wafers per day in the fourth quarter on the successor system, the NXE:3350B. In addition, the availability of systems in the field improved, with the majority of systems achieving a four-week availability of more than 70 percent in recent months; the best result was more than 80 percent over four weeks. We also shipped two of our latest NXE:3350B EUV systems and started shipping the third in 2015. They will be used in our customers’ fabs for preparing the introduction of EUV into volume production. Our goals for 2016 are to continue improving productivity and availability and shipping six to seven EUV systems.”

Regarding deep-ultraviolet lithography systems, “we began ramping shipments of the TWINSCAN NXT:1980, our most advanced immersion system, in the fourth quarter, shipping five systems. The installation of the first systems is complete,” ASML stated.

Holistic lithography “grew by over 20 percent in revenue in 2015; we saw increased adoption of our latest metrology systems and control software at both logic and memory customers. These applications play a more and more critical role in helping our customers achieve the best possible patterning performance on advanced nodes,” the company added.

“The first-quarter outlook disappoints,” SNS Securities analyst Edwin de Jong told Bloomberg News. “It is good that you return cash to shareholders, but you need to improve operationally.”

Neon Gas Supply Issues Dog the Semiconductor Industry

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

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By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The armed conflict in Ukraine, where most of the world’s supply of neon gas for semiconductor manufacturing and other industrial applications is produced, is leading lithography equipment vendors to offer ways to reduce use of neon, which is utilized as a buffer gas for argon fluoride and krypton fluoride gases employed in lasers for chip production.

While a shaky cease-fire has been observed in Ukraine since February, combat has restricted factory activity there in the past year.

Cymer and Gigaphoton, the two leading suppliers of laser light sources for advanced lithography, last month announced measures intended to address the limited supply of neon gas.

The situation has escalated to a neon gas supply shortage, according to Joe Ganeshan, sales manager for Gigaphoton USA. “Seventy-five percent of production comes from Ukraine,” he said. “Prices are going up drastically.”

“Chipmakers are concerned about recent escalation of neon prices and supply continuity,” David Knowles, vice president and general manager of Cymer Light Source, said in a statement. “We have worked in close cooperation with our customers on an aggressive program to develop, qualify, and introduce improvements for the installed base of ArF and KrF light sources that enable significant reductions in neon consumption while ensuring system performance.”

Risto Puhakka, president of VLSI Research, agrees that the neon gas shortage represents “a critical situation” for the semiconductor industry, which is the world’s leading consumer of neon gas. The chip business is “a materials-heavy industry,” he says. Similar crises emerged in recent years with rare earths and helium, he notes.

“It’s part of this business,” Puhakka observes. “Some materials are quite exotic.”

Commodity supply issues naturally result in higher pricing, according to Puhakka. “When the price is right, they’ll find more of it,” he adds.

Puhakka speculates that “shrewd chipmakers” were cognizant of the neon supply issue as it unfolded. “They understand the risks in the supply chain,” he says. While supply chain management is a constant concern for semiconductor manufacturers, they still have to deal with supply shortages and rising prices. “At the end of the day, they don’t have a choice,” Puhakka concludes.

Gigaphoton made a move last November, offering its eTGM technology on a free-of-charge, limited basis for new and existing GT series ArF immersion lasers. Last month, Gigaphoton stepped up its efforts with what it called the Neon Gas Rescue Program. Among other measures, the company is helping customers qualify gas suppliers on an accelerated basis and pushing up implementation of its hTGM gas recycling technology to 2016.

Cymer last month said it is helping with qualifying gas suppliers, while providing software for its installed base of light sources to reduce neon consumption. The company is aiding customers through its OnPulse support program, which brought out a helium reduction kit earlier this year.

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