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Blog review December 16, 2014

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Maybe, just maybe, ASML Holding N.V. (ASML) has made the near-impossible a reality by creating a cost-effective Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV @ ~13.5nm wavelength) all-reflective lithographic tool. The company has announced that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) has ordered two NXE:3350B EUV systems for delivery in 2015 with the intention to use those systems in production. In addition, two NXE:3300B systems already delivered to TSMC will be upgraded to NXE:3350B performance. While costs and throughputs are conspicuously not-mentioned, this is still an important step for the industry.

The good and the great of the electron device world will make their usual pilgrimage to San Francisco for the 2014 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting. Dick James of Chipworks writes that it’s the conference where companies strut their technology, and post some of the research that may make it into real product in the next few years.

The 4th Annual Global Interposer Technology Workshop at GaTech gathered 200 attendees from 11 countries to discuss the status of interposer technology. It has become the one meeting where you can find all the key interposer layers including those representing glass, laminate and silicon, blogs Phil Garrou.

Sharon C. Glotzer and Nicholas A. Kotov are both researchers at the University of Michigan who were just awarded a MRS Medal at the Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting in San Francisco for their work on “Integration of Computation and Experiment for Discovery and Design of Nanoparticle Self-Assembly.”

In order to keep pace with Moore’s Law, semiconductor market leaders have had to adopt increasingly challenging technology roadmaps, which are leading to new demands on electronic materials (EM) product quality for leading-edge chip manufacturing. Dr. Atul Athalye, Head of Technology, Linde Electronics, discusses the challenges.

ST further accelerates its FD-SOI ROs* by 2ps/stage, and reduces SRAM’s VMIN by an extra 70mV. IBM shows an apple-to-apple comparison of 10nm FinFETs on Bulk and SOI. AIST improves the energy efficiency of its FPGA by more than 10X and Nikon shows 2 wafers can be bonded with an overlay accuracy better than 250nm. Adele Hars reports.

Does your design’s interconnect have high enough wire width to withstand ESD? Frank Feng of Mentor Graphics writes in his blog that although applying DRC to check for ESD protection has been in use for a while, designers still struggle to perform this check, because a pure DRC approach can’t identify the direction of an electrical current flow, which means the check can’t directly differentiate the width or length of a wire polygon against a current flow.

At the recent IMAPS conference, Samsung electro-mechanics compared their Plated Mold Via Technology (PMV) to the well known Amkor Through Mold Via  (TMV) technology. The two process flows are compared. Phil Garrou reports.

Solid State Watch: November 25-December 4, 2014

Monday, December 8th, 2014
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The Week in Review: October 24, 2014

Friday, October 24th, 2014

IBM and GLOBALFOUNDRIES this week announced that GLOBALFOUNDRIES will acquire IBM’s global commercial semiconductor technology business, including IBM’s intellectual property, technologists and technologies. IBM will pay GLOBALFOUNDRIES $1.5 billion in cash over the next three years to take the chip operations off its hands. The cash consideration will be adjusted by the amount of working capital which is estimated to be $200 million.

Capped by last week’s announcement that Qualcomm Inc. would buy CSR PLC, the automotive semiconductor industry recently has been undergoing a wave of merger and acquisition activity that has shaken up the competitive order of the market, according to IHS Technology.

Adlyte Inc., a developer of high-brightness extreme light sources for advanced semiconductor inspection and metrology applications, announced it has reached a key performance benchmark for its extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light source for high-volume manufacturing (HVM)-readiness.

Gigaphoton Inc., a lithography light source manufacturer, announced that it has succeeded in achieving 3-hour continuous operation of its prototype LPP EUV light source at 50 percent duty cycle and 42-W output, equivalent to usage in a high-volume-manufacturing (HVM) environment.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.17 billion in orders worldwide in September 2014 (three-month average basis) and a book-to-bill ratio of 0.94, according to the September EMDS Book-to-Bill Report published today by SEMI.   A book-to-bill of 0.94 means that $94 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

Wrap-up: SEMI’s Strategic Materials Conference

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

SEMI’s Strategic Materials Conference was held September 30-October 1, 2014, in Santa Clara, CA at the Biltmore hotel.

By Karey Holland, Techcet Group

The 2014 Strategic Materials Conference was very well attended.  There were people from several of the leading IC makers as well as suppliers of equipment and materials to the fabs.  Unfortunately, the audio and video systems were not stellar, so we had to endure some ear shattering system noise, and any light image was not visible on the screens.  Otherwise, the venue was good.  Throughout the conference, several themes were repeated.

Focus on the stability we hope for in post 2013 times, but concern about volatility and uncertainty of the world economics, esp. the recession-like growth numbers in Europe and Japan expected for the next few years. While forecasters (Gartner, IC Insights, VLSI Research, Linx, Techcet Group and others) anticipate IC wafer starts growing at ≥6% CAGR over the next 5 years, there is concern that any number of geo political world problems could throw us back into a global recession.  Attendees had a greater concern than the presenters over the possibility of a future recession, and that the impact would be greater to IC industry now due to the entrenchment of mobile platforms.

Focus on cost of lithography as a driver for increased cost of leading edge MCUs/MPUs … with current nodes, multi-patterning requires many more expose/develop/dep/etch steps than EUV, but EUV has not yet met the requirements for manufacturing implementation.  It is likely that EUV will first be used for only a few critical layers.  DSA (directed self-assembly) may be used also for a few selected critical layers, but issues of defects will likely keep it from use in many layers.

Focus on the expected (and currently numerous options) for advanced devices and implications for materials.  This includes advanced packaging technologies.

450mm wafers may continue to slip, if the other large IC makers (e.g. TSMC, Samsung, GlobalFoundries) don’t agree with Intel on first implementation date/node. Collaboration across the entire ecosystem was stressed for 450mm to become a reality.

Below are things I found particularly interesting in the presentations and/or at the end of day panel discussions.

The key note presentation, “Materials Innovation for the Digital 6th Sense Era,” was by Matt Nowak of Qualcomm.  He discussed both the vision of the Internet of Things (IoT), the required IC devices (including analog & sensors) and implications to materials (and cost to manufacture) from these new IC devices; a perfect start to SMC 2014.  Qualcomm defines the Digital 6th Sense Era is “the augmentation of human ability”, or as Sue Davis put it “intelligent data based extension of our 5 senses ==>to a 6th“. Essentially this is where the ability of the IoT/IoE data feedback can act as our 6th sense by capturing data about one & one’s environment which results in  prediction/information being shared based on data collection and/or user selections regarding the environment around us (or about us, e.g., tele-health).”  Because the smartphone is the “most pervasive platform ever” (US Android users average 106 Apps launched/day), it can serve as a remote connection to the IoT world … be that monitoring our health, schedules, honey-do lists, and improving our understanding and enjoyment of the world around us.  For advanced logic one might expect, lithography for advanced ICs (quad patterning vs EUV) were discussed as key cost drivers.  Other required/expected advanced materials include high mobility channel materials and thin barrier metals (likely Co). Beyond CMOS, new structures and materials may be required to support sensors (bio, chemical, fluidic), nano batteries, piezo, thermal, and solar harvesters.

Mark Thirsk, Linx-Consulting, reviewed IC growth and lack thereof for past years, and observed that 2014 will be “first good year in 8 years” (since 2006), and forecast 6-8% CAGR for the next few years – strongly dependent on the success of the IoT.  IC market growth since 2010 correlates strongly to GDP since 2010, and thus regional GDP differences (e.g. the current European recession) are reflected in IC demand.  Technology challenges & opportunities in for the next 5+ years include advanced logic (3D NAND, and new memory method after 2018), numerous AL (atomic layer) processes, 3D / advanced packaging, patterning efficiency, and complexity.  The electronic materials landscape is changing: the supply chain is merging, and there are new entrants (esp. from Korea, Taiwan & China) in advanced materials such as photoresists. Interestingly, China appears to be focusing more on investing in fabless than fabs.

Duncan Meldrum, Hilltop Economics, said that the current subdued market growth (3% 2013-16) is due to more fiscal responsible people. China & Asia are growing 4 to 7.7%, US & Latin America about 2.1 to 3.1, Euro <2%, and Japan ~1.5%.  The tax increase in Japan is having a very negative impact. He expects the US to see a 5% year over year improvement (very good news) with our investments finally growing in 2nd half of 2014.  He anticipates healthy, but not stellar consumer spending through 2016.

Patrick Ho, Stifel Nicolas, initially discussed that for companies that follow Moore’s Law, that it is increasingly Fab capital intensity (Capex) with addition of FinFETs, new materials (e.g. High k), 3D NAND, and Multi-Patterning (from delayed EUV).  One can assume this will continue to be the case as CMOS devices moves from Si channel to replacement channel filled with SiGe, Ge, or III-V and memories move to new technologies such as ReRAM, STTRAM, etc.  His observation is that only Intel is pulling for 450mm, and if TSMC & Samsung don’t exert more pull, 450mm may not happen (esp. in light of the negative impact to equipment revenue per square inch of silicon).  The top 4 OEMs (ASML, KLA-T, Lam, AMAT) are large enough to push back on the top 3 IC makers, and that consolidation is continuing.  Patrick noted that all 4 top OEMs have dividends, and he anticipates that they will eventually get better valuations.  He showed a nice list of companies he thinks are acquisition candidates (CMC, Nanometrics, Nikon, Nova, Axcelis, Rudolph, Veeco, FormFactor, and Ultratech).  Other comments:  Moore’s law lives, but is under stress.  Innovation w/ or w/o EUV will bring industry back to Moore’s Law.  Changing landscape will help economics of leading players.

Ross Kozarsky, who leads Lux Research’s advanced materials team, discussed the longer range materials he investigates such as graphene, 3D printing, and Meta-materials. Graphene film sheets are of interest for transparent conductive materials (e.g. touchscreens), possibly moving to FETs & sensors.  3D printing has been around 30 yrs; today it’s used mostly for prototyping, but manufacturing use makes sense and could really increase total growth.  Multifunctional and multi-materials printers will be needed.  Autonomous cars are now a big growth opportunity, opening great opportunity for chemical and material companies to innovate.

Geraud Duboix, IBM Almaden, develops porous low k materials for interconnect passivation and their integration (esp. plasma damage).  In the 0.65 to 0.1um timeframe, interconnect RC delay was slowing devices even though the transistors were getting faster, and thus began the drive for lower k insulators.  The ITRS has been showing the need for lower k since its inception, but it also has pushed out the date of the more aggressive low ks.  Initially to achieve lower k, C and F were added to SiO2 to break-up network structure.  Today, they are driving low k down by adding porosity.  Once a big concern, Geraud said that ULK mechanical properties are now no longer a concern with UV treatment, the lowest k being integrated is 2.3-2.4, and new low k materials are emerging. Geraud is working on porous low k materials, to achieve lower k, and larger pores deliver lower k.  He discussed the various pore-sizes in evaluation, the importance of porogens (material in the low k deposition that is later removed to create pores) and methods being used to seal the created pores (especially before conformal barrier metal deposition).  Interestingly, he commented that creating and sealing the larger pores is somewhat easier, although he’s being asked to work on the smaller pores for now.  During the panel discussion Mansour Moinpour (Intel) asked why Geraud was working on smaller pores that are more difficult to fill. Geraud responded that for the designers insulators with 2.0 or 1.8 k would be too big a change and they want 2.4 and 2.2 first.

Todd Younkin, from Intel’s central research (components) novel materials group, discussed that the industry will continue CMOS Scaling through 7nm. As stated by others, lithography is a challenge and using several methods to accomplish patterning, while productivity and pattern placement (alignment) are concerns.  Intel is working on devices with channels of higher mobility materials that Si (III-V or MoS2) as well as beyond CMOS (e.g., GAA) devices.  Todd said that early in device research development, Intel works to make sure manufacturing should be capable of meeting cost expectations. These include the cost of multi-patterning versus EUV, ultra-low k interconnect materials, etc.

Angela Franklin, of TriQuint (recently renamed Qorvo) discussed the challenges of supply management (and unlike others, she projects well when talking, so we could avoid the audio system problems … thanks Angela!).  Angela educated the audience about Qorvo devices (some look more like MEMS with permanent epoxy “cavity” structures that resonate w/ the RF) which are significantly different from the leading edge logic and non-volatile most of us follow.  Unlike the device manufactures that use Si, Qorvo uses smaller substrates of III-V and GaN.  Many films are already on the substrates when purchased.  The fab process is very solvent intensive, and only 1/3 aqueous.  Unlike others, Qorvo uses significant eBeam lithography with up to 28 different resists and many negative resists, as well as metal lift-off (my first job at IBM >30 yrs ago).

Prof. Philip Wong of Stanford gave his typical dynamic and mind-stretching presentation. His discussion was focused on the single digit nodes, and the possible new channel materials for logic (III-V or 2D MoS2, MoSe2, WSe2, WTe2 or ??) and possible new devices, including carbon nanotube FET (CNFET), STTRAM, CBRAM, ReRAM (using HfOx, TaOx, TiOx).  He said that memory chips will hold 32Tbits.  He then smiled and said “none of this before the next 10 years”.  He showed some exciting interleaved memory and logic ideas using a base of 2D or 3D FETs, topped by STTRAM, then 2D or 3D FETs, and then 3D RRAM.  Because the interconnects of the bottom device are present, all processing for the others must be at low temperature (<400C).

Discussion Panel.  When asked about collaboration with materials suppliers, Intel and IBM research had significantly different responses.  Intel invests dollars and works with graduate students on advanced projects and hopefully a “lucky accident” brings advances.  IBM research mentioned that legal issues often get in the way of collaboration with suppliers.

Notes for SMC Day 2 2014 Blog

Tim Hendry, from Intel’s supply management team started off day 2.  A large concern he brought up was what he described as the widening connections between fab, material suppliers, and sub-suppliers.  He then discussed the concerns and possible ways to improve connections, as well as the importance of metrology and verification of chemical quality.  Unfortunately, some of the sub-suppliers are very big chemical companies that have difficulty getting excited about the low volume materials used to make ICs.  He finished up by saying that Intel is focused on controlling the costs of manufacturing that require close partnerships with materials suppliers. Intel is driving for unprecedented collaboration among the materials and sub tier suppliers to achieve cost, performance and defect targets.  The cost of packaging and shipping materials globally is driving investigation into new operating models to cut costs.

Dennis Hausmann of LamRC/NVLS discussed ALD/CVD in more details than others.  For Each CVD/ALD step, an average of $2-$3/wafer is added to manufacturing cost, while only about $1/wafer of this is for chemistry+power+exhaust management.  He reviewed at least 4 versions of ALD tools (furnaces to single wafer) and said that there is a “right ALD tool” for the right deposition job.  He said that single wafer tools with proper development can meet same throughput as batch furnaces.  However, if you look at the development cost, single wafer tools are much better in cost.  For depositions that improve with plasma ALD, single wafer tools also make sense.  An important observation by Dennis was that for ALD, sometimes it is the unknown contaminant that “makes it go”.  This is something that has been observed in the past of copper plating chemistries, as well as some CMP slurries.

James ONeil, CTO Entegris had an interesting title, which should fit most suppliers “Accelerating yield in a disruptive environment”.  James emphasized that suppliers need meaningful process discussions, insights & collaboration with their customers.

Adrienne Pierce of Edwards introduced SCIS collaboration to most of us.  This is a supply chain collaboration working group.  Some topics are tracing defects origins and BKMs for specific process (e.g. ALD).

There were then two parallel sessions; one on advanced memories and the other on 3D packaging.  In the memory session, Norma Sosa of IBM talked about PCRAM (phase change memory, which Micron has been shipping for a few years now), Mark Raynor, Matheson, discussed RRAM for Non-Volatile, and Suresh Upa, SanDisk, discussed packaging implications.

After the breakout, we had presentations from four materials supplier companies.  The four same very similar things.  Dave Bern of Dow Chemical discussed using the “right tool” for collaboration and the importance of making sure suppliers agree to work in areas that fit their “core competencies”.  Wayne Mitchel of Air Products noted that ICs are only 2% of GDP.  He agreed with Dave Bern that suppliers should only agree to work (partner) with customer on areas within expertise, otherwise it takes too much time and money to execute successfully. Jean Marc Girard, Air Liquide discussed the numerous risks of supply chain, from the sub-supplier, the environment (e.g. earthquakes), and materials stability (or lack thereof). Kevin O’Shea of SAFC Hitech emphasized that taking materials from a catalog of low volume and ramping to IC manufacturing needs is not trivial, and may also not be consistent with the materials manufacturer (the sub-supplier, or company that is “primary” in the materials).

The day 2 Panel discussion had more audience participation.  Some discussions I found particularly interesting are discussed below.

Tim (Intel) said the gap is getting wider between Intel, suppliers, sub-suppliers (esp. customs for IC industry). The large sub-supplier that doesn’t have an interest in moving forward – there is no motivation to increase metrology, metrics, etc.  The shrinking sub-supplier base isn’t good for our industry – reduction in cost per bit comes from shrinks and reuse of capital, not only lower cost materials..

Kurt Carlson said that sub suppliers don’t think IC fabrication is the best industry – the IC industry wants more and more, yet wants to pay less and less.  It’s not worth it to us (good sub-suppliers leave because it’s too costly for the small volumes).

Jean Marc said they don’t want to duplicate development costs, if they don’t need to; they would rather use universities and share on things like toxicology.

Dave said it costs millions of dollars to test materials, like EUV.

Mansour Moinpour asked about collaboration on liquid particle, GCMS, and similar – can we have joint & consistent measurements across the industry?  James Entegris responded that end user need to be drivers.  Jean Marc suggested that maybe SEMI standards could drive a standard of industrial analytics.

The value of roadmaps was very different to the various participants, however the idea of regulatory alignment and a roadmap related to this was generally thought to be useful.

The question of cost and logistics … there are some materials that require shipping a lot of water, which adds cost.  Intel said that they are getting into more cost sensitive mobile market and they may be driven to this rather than exact materials copy in near future.  Tim said the Intel CEO is “hell bent” that Intel will make money in the mobile market.  “Intel will pull it off.”

The Week in Review: September 26, 2014

Friday, September 26th, 2014

NANIUM announced it has successfully launched the industry’s largest Wafer-Level Chip Scale Package (WLCSP) in volume.

Pixelligent Technologies announced that it has been selected for a Department of Energy (DOE) solid-state-lighting award to support the continued development of its OLED lighting application.

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography was a leading topic at the SPIE Photomask Technology conference and exhibition, held September 16-17-18 in Monterey, Calif., yet it wasn’t the only topic discussed and examined.

SiTime Corporation, a MEMS analog semiconductor company, this week announced that it has closed $25 million in new financing, which consisted of a combination of structured debt facility of $15 million provided by Capital IP Investment Partners LLC and strategic equity investment from other investors.

Silicon Motion elected Han-Ping Shieh to its Board of Directors.

SPIE Photomask Technology Wrap-up

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography was a leading topic at the SPIE Photomask Technology conference and exhibition, held September 16-17-18 in Monterey, Calif., yet it wasn’t the only topic discussed and examined. Mask patterning, materials and process, metrology, and simulation, optical proximity correction (OPC), and mask data preparation were extensively covered in conference sessions and poster presentations.

Even with the wide variety of topics on offer at the Monterey Conference Center, many discussions circled back to EUV lithography. After years of its being hailed as the “magic bullet” in semiconductor manufacturing, industry executives and engineers are concerned that the technology will have a limited window of usefulness. Its continued delays have led some to write it off for the 10-nanometer and 7-nanometer process nodes.

EUV photomasks were the subject of three conference sessions and the focus of seven posters. There were four posters devoted to photomask inspection, an area of increasing concern as detecting and locating defects in a mask gets more difficult with existing technology.

The conference opened Tuesday, Sept. 16, with the keynote presentation by Martin van den Brink, the president and chief technology officer of ASML Holding. His talk, titled “Many Ways to Shrink: The Right Moves to 10 Nanometer and Beyond,” was clearly meant to provide some reassurance to the attendees that progress is being made with EUV.

He reported his company’s “30 percent improvement in overlay and focus” with its EUV systems in development. ASML has shipped six EUV systems to companies participating in the technology’s development (presumably including Intel, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, which have made equity investments in ASML), and it has five more being integrated at present, van den Brink said.

The light source being developed by ASML’s Cymer subsidiary has achieved an output of 77 watts, he said, and the company expects to raise that to 81 watts by the end of 2014. The key figure, however, remains 100 watts, which would enable the volume production of 1,000 wafers per day. No timeline on that goal was offered.

The ASML executive predicted that chips with 10nm features would mostly be fabricated with immersion lithography systems, with EUV handling the most critical layers. For 7nm chips, immersion lithography systems will need 34 steps to complete the patterning of the chip design, van den Brink said. At that process node, EUV will need only nine lithography steps to get the job done, he added.

Among other advances, EUV will require actinic mask inspection tools, according to van den Brink. Other speakers at the conference stressed this future requirement, while emphasizing that it is several years away in implementation.

Mask making is moving from detecting microscopic defects to an era of mesoscopic defects, according to Yalin Xiong of KLA-Tencor. Speaking during the “Mask Complexity: How to Solve the Issues?” panel discussion on Thursday, Sept. 18, Xiong said actinic mask inspection will be “available only later, and it’s going to be costly.” He predicted actinic tools will emerge by 2017 or 2018. “We think the right solution is the actinic solution,” Xiong concluded.

Peter Buck of Mentor Graphics, another panelist at the Sept. 18 session, said it was necessary to embrace mask complexity in the years to come. “Directed self-assembly has the same constraints as EUV and DUV (deep-ultraviolet),” he observed.

People in the semiconductor industry place high values on “good,” “fast,” and “cheap,” Buck noted. With the advent of EUV lithography and its accompanying challenges, one of those attributes will have to give way, he said, indicating cheapness was the likely victim.

Mask proximity correction (MPC) and Manhattanization will take on increasing importance, Buck predicted. “MPC methods can satisfy these complexities,” he said.

For all the concern about EUV and the ongoing work with that technology, the panelists looked ahead to the time when electron-beam lithography systems with multiple beams will become the litho workhorses of the future.

Mask-writing times were an issue touched upon by several panelists. Shusuke Yoshitake of NuFlare Technology reported hearing about a photomask design that took 60 hours to write. An extreme example, to be sure, but next-generation multi-beam mask writers will help on that front, he said.

Daniel Chalom of IMS Nanofabrication said that with 20nm chips, the current challenge is reduce mask-writing times to less than 15 hours.

In short, presenters at the SPIE conference were optimistic and positive about facing the many challenges in photomask design, manufacturing, inspection, metrology, and use. They are confident that the technical hurdles can be overcome in time, as they have in the past.

Solid State Watch: September 12-18, 2014

Monday, September 22nd, 2014
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The Week in Review: September 19, 2014

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography systems will be available to pattern critical layers of semiconductors at the 10-nanometer process node, and EUV will completely take over from 193nm immersion lithography equipment at 7nm, according to Martin van den Brink, president and chief technology officer of ASML Holding.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.35 billion in orders worldwide in August 2014 (three-month average basis) and a book-to-bill ratio of 1.04, according to the August EMDS Book-to-Bill Report published today by SEMI.   A book-to-bill of 1.04 means that $104 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

Rudolph Technologies has introduced its new SONUS Technology for measuring thick films and film stacks used in copper pillar bumps and for detecting defects, such as voids, in through silicon vias (TSVs).

Samsung Electronics announced this week that it has begun mass producing its six gigabit (Gb) low-power double data rate 3 (LPDDR3) mobile DRAM, based on advanced 20 nanometer (nm) process technology. The new mobile memory chip will enable longer battery run-time and faster application loading on large screen mobile devices with higher resolution.

ProPlus Design Solutions, Inc. announced this week it expanded its sales operations to Europe.

Mentor Graphics this week announced the appointment of Glenn Perry to the role of vice president of the company’s Embedded Systems Division. The Mentor Graphics Embedded Systems Division enables embedded development for a variety of applications including automotive, industrial, smart energy, medical devices, and consumer electronics.

SPIE panel tackles mask complexity issues

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Photomasks that take two-and-a-half days to write. Mask data preparation that enters into Big Data territory. And what happens when extreme-ultraviolet lithography really, truly arrives?

These were among the issues addressed by eight panelists in a Thursday session at the SPIE Photomask Technology conference in Monterey, Calif. Participants in the “Mask Complexity: How to Solve the Issues?” panel discussion came from multiple segments of the photomask food chain, although only one, moderator Naoya Hayashi of Dai Nippon Printing, represented a company that actually makes masks.

The panelists were generally optimistic on prospects for resolving the various issues in question. Dong-Hoon Chung of Samsung Electronics said solutions to the thorny challenges in designing, preparing, and manufacturing masks were “not impossible.”

Bala Thumma of Synopsys said he was “going to take the optimistic view” regarding mask-making challenges. “Scaling is going to continue,” he added.

“We are not at the breaking point yet,” Thumma said. “Far from it!” Electronic design automation companies like Synopsys will continue to improve their software tools, he asserted. Mask manufacturers will also benefit from “strong partnerships” with vendors of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and “strong support from semiconductor companies,” he said.

“There is a lot of complexity,” he acknowledged. Still, going by past experience, “this group of people has been able to work together and solve these issues,” Thumma concluded.

To resolve the issue of burgeoning data volumes in mask design and manufacture, Suichiro Ohara of Nippon Control System (NCS) proposed the solution of a unified data format – specifically MALY and OASIS.MASK software. Shusuke Yoshitake of NuFlare Technology later said, “OASIS is gaining, but GDSII still predominates.”

Several panelists took the long-term view and looked beyond the coming era of EUV lithography to when multiple-beam mask writers and actinic inspection of masks will be required. EUV and actinic technology, it was generally agreed, will arrive at the 7-nanometer process node, possibly in 2017 or 2018. Multi-beam mask writers are also several years away, it was said.

As the floor was opened to questions and comments, consultant Ken Rygler noted that commercial mask makers have “very low margins” and asked, “How does the mask maker pay for the inspection tools, the EDA, materials?” Yalin Xiong of KLA-Tencor said the mask business is in “a tough time economically.” He added, “We have to look at where the high-end business is going. Captive [mask shops] should step up.”

ASML on EUV: Available at 10nm

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

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By Jeff Dorsch, contributing editor

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography systems will be available to pattern critical layers of semiconductors at the 10-nanometer process node, and EUV will completely take over from 193nm immersion lithography equipment at 7nm, according to Martin van den Brink, president and chief technology officer of ASML Holding.

Giving the keynote presentation Tuesday at the SPIE Photomask Technology conference in Monterey, Calif., Martin offered a lengthy update on his company’s progress with EUV technology.

Sources for the next-generation lithography systems are now able to produce 77 watts of power, and ASML is shooting for 81W by the end of 2014, Martin said.

The power figure is significant since it indicates how many wafers the litho system can process, a key milestone in EUV’s progress toward becoming a volume manufacturing technology. With an 80W power source, ASML’s EUV systems could turn out 800 wafers a day, he noted.

The goal is to get to 1,000 wafers per day. ASML has lately taken to specifying throughput rates in daily production, not wafers per hour, since many wafer fabs are running nearly all the time at present.

ASML’s overarching goal is providing “affordable scaling,” Martin asserted, through what he called “holistic lithography.” This involves both immersion litho scanners and EUV machines, he said.

Martin offered a product roadmap over the next four years, concluding with manufacturing of semiconductors with 7nm features in 2018.

The ASML president acknowledged that the development of EUV has been halting over the years, while asserting that his company has made “major progress” with EUV. He said the EUV program represented “a grinding project, going on for 10 years.”

For all of EUV’s complications and travails, “nothing is impossible,” Martin told a packed auditorium at the Monterey Conference Center.

With many producers of photomasks in attendance at the conference, Martin promised, “We are not planning to make a significant change in mask infrastructure” for EUV. He added, “What you are investing today will be useful next year, and the year after that.”

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