TAIPEI – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will switch on its first extreme ultraviolet machine in two weeks. The milestone marks the next step in the foundry's goal of evaluating three competing lithography machines for making next-generation chips.
"We are the only company that has been open about trying all three—we are sticking our necks out," said Burn Lin, vice president of the nano-patterning division at TSMC at a reception for the Semi Taiwan event here.
TSMC is already testing an alpha prototype version of a direct-write electron beam system from Mapper Lithography BV and getting "good results," he said. TSMC will install an e-beam machine from KLA Tencor next year, he added.
Ultimately, TSMC will choose only one machine, likely for first use at the 14nm node. "In less than two years we hope to determine which is best," Lin said.
TSMC purchased and installed the 3100 version of ASML's EUV system. It will turn on its light source for the first time in two weeks, Lin said.
Engineers have labored for years on EUV lithography but to date throughput for the machines is still far below commercial levels while their cost is reportedly greater than $120 million. Lin said he has high hopes for the e-beam systems because they do not require masks, saving complexity and cost.
Last week, a GlobalFoundries executive said the company purchased an ASML 3300 system which it will install late next year. It expects to test the system at 20nm but hopes to use it for commercial chips at 14nm.
Taiwan is the leading consumer of semiconductor capital equipment, according to figures from the SEMI trade association. The country is expected to purchase $10.62 billion in fab gear this year, ahead of South Korea at $7.98 billion.