SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The numbers for the development of future EUV mask and metrology tools are too costly and do not add up, according to experts at the SPIE Advanced Lithography event here.
As reported, chip-making consortium Sematech has recently launched a consortium to develop metrology tools for detecting defects in advanced masks needed for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. Producing prototypes of these EUV metrology tools is expected to cost an estimated $200 million or more.
The problem is that there are no viable EUV metrology tools in the market today. If you can't inspect EUV-enabled masks--which must be defect free--EUV will not succeed in the market.
Current machines are not sensitive enough to detect defects in EUV masks. So many believe the industry must develop actinic-based tools, which have an equivalent 13-nm wavelength as EUV. This is a costly and monumental effort.
''The problem has been known for a long time,'' said Kurt Ronse, director of the lithography department at IMEC, an R&D organization, but the issue has been a ''chicken and egg'' situation.
The industry was looking for the metrology tool makers--such as Applied Materials, KLA-Tencor and others--to foot the bill and develop EUV machines. But on the other hand, the tool makers have been slow to devise these types of machines.
This is due to the associated costs involved and lack of return-on-investment, said Chris Mack, a consultant and gentlemen scientist. All told, it could take ''four years'' before the EUV metrology tools are ready, Mack said.
This implies EUV could be delayed again--or not happen at all. This is not a surprise to most lithographers, but EUV lithography is delayed--again. EUV is now targeted for chip production at the 16-nm half-pitch node.
Here's more bad news: Now, the industry faces dreaded double-patterning or some variation of the technology. Double-patterning adds cost and complexity to chip production.
There was some hope that EUV would be ready for the latter part of the 22-nm half-pitch node, which is slated for the 2011 timeframe. But once again, EUV has been delayed due to lack of power sources, resists, defect-free masks and metrology tools.
Regarding the metrology tools, the numbers do not add up. It could take up to $100 million (or more) to devise an actinic-based metrology tool. That's for the R&D alone, according to one expert.
The bill-of-material costs are around $5-to-$10 million. What's more, there are few customers for EUV metrology: Only six or so chip makers--if that--will buy EUV scanners in the first place.
So, a tool maker must charge a premium: Some believe that a tool maker must charge $40 million or more for a single machine.
That does not include the EUV scanner itself, which could go for $100 million per system if or when they appear. Others are throwing out numbers like $130 million for a EUV scanner.