SAN JOSE, Calif. Seeking to take the technical lead in lithography, Nikon Corp. on Thursday (July 30) rolled out what the company claims is the world's first hyper numerical aperture (NA) immersion system for volume chip production.
The NSR-S609B from Nikon (Tokyo) is a 193-nm immersion, "tandem-stage" lithography scanner with a hyper NA of 1.07. Aimed for chip production at 55-nm and development at 45-nm, the machine can process 130 or more wafers per hour with no sign of immersion-specific defects, Nikon claimed.
Nikon, which tipped the S609B at the recent SPIE Microlithography Conference, is racing against ASML Holding NV and Canon Inc. in the immersion lithography market.
Many leading-edge chip makers are banking on immersion lithography for IC production at the 45-nm node and perhaps beyond. Still others with more aggressive roadmaps hope to insert tools at the 65-nm node (see March 4 story).
Meanwhile, rival ASML of the Netherlands is also aggressively developing its immersion lithography tools and is reportedly readying its first hyper NA machine, dubbed the 1700i, according to sources.
Japan's Canon is also developing a dual-stage, immersion lithography tool, but the machine is not expected to hit the market until 2006 (see Sept. 26, 2001 story).
Nikon claims to be the leader in the field. "Nikon was the first to ship a 0.85 NA system for advanced 90-nm production, the first to announce a system for 65-nm production, and now we're announcing the industry's first hyper NA system for 45-nm development," said Geoff Wild, chief executive of Nikon's U.S. chip-equipment unit, Nikon Precision Inc. (Belmont, Calif.), in a statement.
Nikon's new machine features a "local fill technology" and a new tandem stage design, which enables the system to achieve a high throughput of 130 wafers per hour or more, the company said.
The tandem stage design deploys two stages with different functions. The exposure stage is designed to boost throughput, while the calibration stage is used to calibrate the tool between each wafer exchange. Alignment accuracy has been reduced to 7-nm or less with the architecture, according to Nikon.
Nikon's "local fill technology" allows wafers to be processed at high scan speeds of 500-mm/sec or faster with no wafer spots or backside wafer contamination, according to the company. In repeated demonstrations, Nikon claimed the tool has been proven to be free from microbubbles and other defects.
It also consists of Nikon's polarized illumination system. Dubbed Polano, the system improves image contrast by 20 percent, thereby boosting resolution, depth of focus, and critical dimension (CD) uniformity, according to Nikon. Nikon rolled out the polarization technology last year (see Nov. 30, 2004 story).
Shipments of the lithography tool are expected in the second half.