SAN JOSE, Calif. In a major change in strategy, Intel Corp. has selected Nikon Corp. over ASML Holding NV for a hotly-contested lithography order for the chip giant's 32-nm node, according to sources.
At 32-nm, Nikon has reportedly won the entire lithography business within Intel, leaving ASML out in the cold, source said. The multi-million-dollar order represents Intel's initial scanners, based on immersion lithography. Up until now, Intel had been using ''dry'' scanners for wafer processing within its fabs.
At 45-nm, Intel has been using a combination of 193-nm dry tools from both ASML and Nikon for the so-called ''critical layers," sources said. For the non-critical layers, Intel has been exclusively using Nikon's 248-nm scanners for use in processing wafers at the 45-nm node, sources said.
For some time, Intel has been shipping 45-nm processors, which are based on high-k/metal gate technology. Intel also uses reactors from ASM International BV for high-k/metal-gate applications.
At 32-nm, Intel has reportedly switched gears and moved towards a single-vendor tool strategy--at least in lithography. In other words, Intel will sole source its lithography requirements at 32-nm, by using Nikon. In the past, it had a dual-vendor strategy. ''It's a huge risk for Intel,'' said one source.
Word has leaked that Nikon has already shipped the first 193-nm immersion tools to Intel's D1D production/development fab in Oregon.
At 32-nm, Intel will exclusively use Nikon's 193-nm immersion tools for the ''critical layers'' at 32-nm; the chip giant will also use Nikon's tools for the non-critical layers, according to sources.
In that bid, Intel reportedly evaluated Nikon's NSR-610C line of 193-nm immersion scanners and ASML's 1900i tools, sources said. The NSR-S610C uses a multi-axial catadioptric lens design, which has a numerical aperture of 1.30. This immersion scanner uses Nikon's so-called Local Fill Technology and Tandem Stage design.
The decision reportedly came down to a number of factors, but the main one was clear: cost-of-ownership, sources said. ASML's tools are more expensive than those from Nikon, sources said.
Last year, Intel showed the industry's first working chips built using 32-nm technology, with transistors so small that more than 4 million of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence. Intel's 32-nm process technology is on track to begin production in 2009.