SAN FRANCISCO – Chips made at the 14-nm process node may deliver as little as half the typical 30 percent performance increase—and still carry a hefty cost premium--due to the lack of next-generation lithography needed to make them efficiently, according to experts speaking at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) here on Monday (Dec. 10).
Chip makers must choose lithography options now for 14-nm node, two generation away from the 28-nm node in wide production for today’s smallest devices. But it will not be until 2014 that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography tools will be available for limited commercial use, said Luc van den Hove, chief executive of the IMEC research center in Belgium, speaking to EE Times after a keynote talk here.
The cost of 14-nm wafers made with today’s 193-nm immersion lithography systems will be more than 90 percent greater than the cost of today’s 28-nm wafers. EUV would shave that increase to just under 60 percent, van den Hove estimated in his talk (see chart below).
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The cost comes from the need to make as many as three exposures with today’s systems compared to just one with EUV. “The triple patterning is too complex so you will have to relax design rules or the chips will not yield,” said Kurt Ronse, an IMEC lithography specialist.
As a result, 14-nm chips likely will deliver about 15 to 20 percent performance boosts over the prior generation, rather than the typical 30 percent boost, estimated Ronse.
“It is likely some design rules at 14 nm will have to be relaxed somewhat,” said van den Hove in his keynote. “I believe the time to decide lithography options for 14 nm is basically now, and its clear EUV is not ready for the challenge,” he added, in response to a question.
“There is a tremendous effort to solve the [EUV] problems,” said van den Hove. “We believe the problems are not fundamental, they are engineering but it will require time."