SAN FRANCISCO—It has taken far longer and cost far more than nearly anyone would have predicted, but the semiconductor industry finally appears close to moving extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography into high volume production.
At the Semicon West tradeshow here this week, lithography vendor ASML announced it had achieved an important and long-elusive milestone: the demonstration of a 250-watt EUV source. Source power—a measurement of the amount of EUV photons delivered to the scanner to enable wafer exposure—equates directly to productivity. Chipmakers have long insisted that source power of 250 watts would be required to achieve throughput of 125 wafers per hour (WPH), and the inability of ASML and Cymer (which ASML acquired in 2013) to push the technology to hit that mark has been considered the primary roadblock for EUV development in recent years.
Michael Lercel, director of strategic marketing at ASML, said the company has demonstrated 250 watts “rather consistently by really understanding the conversion efficiency in the source and putting the right controls in place.” He said the source that has demonstrated 250 watts has not yet shipped.
Leading edge chipmakers including Intel, Samsung, TSMC and Globalfoundries are planning to insert EUV into high-volume production sometime in the next two years. ASML demonstrated back in February throughput of 104 WPH and executives said even before the 250 watt source power was demonstrated that the company had a roadmap to get to 125 WPH.
The 250 watt source power milestone represents an improvement of 10 fold over the past five years from about 25 watts in 2012. Delivering a presentation on the economics of EUV for production, Lercel joked that when he worked at Cymer in the early part this decade the goal for reaching 250 watts of source power “was always next year.”
Michael Lercel, director of strategic marketing at ASML, speaks at Semicon West Thursday.
Credit: Dylan McGrath/EE Times
ASML has 14 development tools already in the field which have now exposed more than 1 million wafers, including more than 500,000 wafers in just the past 12 months, according to Lercel. The first shipments of ASML’s NXE:3400B production EUV tool began earlier this year.
As of April, ASML had a backlog of 21 EUV systems awaiting delivery, the majority of which are reportedly ticketed for Intel. The company is expected to provide an update of its EUV backlog when it announces its second quarter results next week.
EUV, the development of which can be traced back to the 1970s with the ill-fated development effort of X-ray lithography. The semiconductor industry was originally hoping to use EUV in production early this decade, but development has slipped continually. By some estimates, the industry has spent more than $20 billion on the development of EUV.
Despite ASML’s progress, critics will continue to skepticism toward EUV. “Detractors keep saying it’s never going to happen, but ASML keeps hitting its targets,” said G. Dan Hutcheson, a veteran semiconductor equipment analyst and president of VLSI Research Inc. “It sure has taken a long time, but we finally seem to be getting somewhere.”
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