SAN JOSE, Calif. — Before the first extreme ultraviolet lithography systems ship, its designer revealed a plan for its much-anticipated follow on. ASML will invest and collaborate with optics specialist Carl Zeiss SMT to deliver a version of EUV systems with a numerical aperture (NA) greater than 0.5, but they won’t be ready for volume production until about 2024.
ASML is spending nearly $2 billion as part of the new effort. It will buy a 24.9% stake in the Zeiss subsidiary for about $1.1 billion in cash. In addition, ASML will make a one-time contribution of about $244 million to the joint R&D project and spend another $600 million over six years for capital equipment and other needs.
The deal is another example of how the work of pursuing Moore’s law is becoming increasingly costly and complex.
Today’s most advanced chips have feature sizes as small as 35nm. The first-generation EUV systems will use 0.33 NA optics to print features as small as about 13nm. The 0.5 NA versions should be able to print features as fine as about 8nm.
“ASML hasn’t taken a direct investment stake with anyone in the supply chain before and it’s a very large stake. That speaks both to the risk of making these new systems and, for them to spend this much money, ASML’s confidence,” said Risto Puhakka, president of market watcher VLSI Research.
As part of its news, ASML expressed optimism the first-generation EUV systems are almost ready for use in volume manufacturing. “In 2018 the first chips made on current technology EUV scanners are expected to roll off the production lines of our customers.” said Peter Wennink, chief executive of ASML in a press statement.
Those chips will use an NXE:3400B system ASML will ship next year with an estimated throughput of 125 wafers/hour, capable of creating overlays within a 3nm tolerance. In a recent analyst meeting, ASML noted four logic and two memory chip makers publically stated they will put 0.33 NA EUV systems into production sometime in 2018.
The 0.5 NA systems should handle up to 185 wafers/hour ASML and provide an overlay tolerance of less than 2nm. Before they arrive, ASML hopes to ship an upgraded version of the 0.33 NA systems capable of running 145 wafers/hour.
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Stars in 2018 indicate the number of chip makers ASML says have publicly committed to put EUV in production; star in 2024 indicates when ASML expects to ship 0.5 NA EUV. (Images: ASML)
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