SAN FRANCISCO—Lithography tool vendor ASML Holding NV commanded a higher share of units shipped in 2011 than the combined total of competitors Nikon Corp. and Canon Inc., further evidence that the Dutch firm has come to dominate which was only a few years ago a close three-horse race, the Information Network, a market research firm based in New Tripoli, Pa.
ASML was responsible for 57 percent of the lithography tools shipped in 2011, with Nikon accounting for 28 percent and Canon 15 percent, according to the Information Network. In 2011, Nikon's share was 42 percent, Canon's 35 percent and ASML's only 22 percent, according to the firm.
Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network, said a bifurcation of the lithography tool market started in 2004, when ASML for the first time took the lead in 193-nm ArF lithography. Castellano said any chance Nikon or Canon will have to surpass ASML won't come until next-generation extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, which is lagging behind schedule.
But while ASML has already installed several pre-production EUV tools and says it will have a production tool shipping next year, Nikon has said its high-volume EUV tool won't be ready until 2014 or 2015.
"The monopoly held by ASML in the high-end stepper market (ArF and EUVL) has and will continue to have an impact on semiconductor manufacturers," said Castellano. “ASML products command a much higher selling price than competitors, and in the semiconductor market advanced lithography is so critical that buyers are willing to pay the higher price."
Thanks to strong lithography tool sales, ASML parlayed its dominance in 2011 to surpass longtime No. 1 semiconductor equipment maker Applied Materials Inc. and become the leader in tool sales.
ASML had a whopping 82 percent of 193-nm immersion lithography tool shipments in 2011, with Nikon weighing in at around 18 percent, according to the Information Network.
Canon had nearly 53 percent market share in low-end, i-line lithography in 2011, while Nikon held 40 percent and ASML only 8 percent, according to the Information Network.
But Castellano noted that i-line lithography tools sell for only around $5 million each. "However, the really big money is in ArF immersion tools that sell for $30 million and more depending on all the bells and whistles," Castellano said.
ASML has market share, but they are also spending quite a bit on EUV tool development. Since it is in the best interest of the semi industry to have at least two lithography vendors, in the past Intel has made sure ASML and Nikon both got enough orders to stay healthy. Since the leading edge production tools are 193 nm immersion, that can still take place as Nikon is still competitive there.
ASML has definately taken advantage of the immersion market and the delay of the next generation tools is helping feed that lead as foundries buy more immersion tools to implement double patterning. Their future dominance will depend on which technology finally wins out and who brings the best solution first. It's all still very unclear suggesting that continued proliferation of immersion for double, triple and even quaduple (DP with double dipole) patterning will continue in the near future.
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