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Will EUV litho ever cross over from R&D to production?

Posted: 06 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography tool? chip production? R&D?

The procurement of an R&D extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography tool from Nikon Corp. has reportedly been put off by Intel Corp., according to industry sources. The event raises more questions about the viability of EUV for mass chip productiona major concern for Intel, Toshiba, Samsung and others.

Sources believe that Japan's Nikon was supposed to ship an alpha or R&D EUV tool to Intel by the end of last year. Then, Nikon reportedly delayed the shipment, sources said. Instead, the company supposedly decided to keep the R&D tool at its headquarters in Tokyo, reportedly because it would take too long to ship the unit, sources said. That machine would still be used for R&D, they added.

However, Nikon denied that rumor and is apparently still looking to the ship the EUV tool to Intel in the future. EUV is a next-generation lithography machine that is aimed for the post-optical era. But EUV, in general, has been delayed by an assortment of problems, namely the mask, power source, resists, among others.

Analysts are under the impression that Nikon will still ship the alpha machine to Intel. "Regarding Intel, Nikon plans to ship a unit next fiscal year, but the shipping process has not started yet," said David Motozo Rubenstein, an analyst with Jefferies Japan Ltd in Tokyo.

On the bright side, Nikon will shortly ship its first EUV alpha tool, reportedly to Selete, a Japanese chip R&D consortium. The second EUV alpha tool was (and still is) targeted for Intel, the biggest proponent and backer for the technology.

"They are shipping one unit this year to a Japanese customer," Rubenstein said. Sources said the first customer is Selete.

Nikon "cannot book revenues until the whole unit is installed, and it is indeed massive," he said. "It takes almost one year to get it up and running. They expect it to be ready by March 2008. However, this is, of course, only for R&D use. They don't expect EUV to be used for production until after 2010 because of low throughput, costs, etc."

Officials from Nikon, however, insist the shipment is not late to Intel, said Scott Foster, an analyst with HSBC. In an e-mail, Foster received this response from Nikon regarding the reported tardiness of the alpha EUV tool: "Not true. We will ship the EUV tool as planned. Regarding the size of the tool, it is actually not that big," said Andrew Hazelton of the marketing department at Nikon.

Intel declined to comment. "You know we can't comment on rumors," according to a spokeswoman for Intel.

Troubles for EUV
In any event, EUV is in trouble. The technology was originally slated for chip production at the 45nm node, but now EUV is seen as a possible candidate for the latter stages of the 22nm node in the 2011 timeframe. Some do not believe the technology will ever work in production fabs. It is also too expensive, as a production tool is expected to run $60 million each or more. Some say a tool will run $100 million.

Intel has been the biggest proponent in EUV, ostensibly as a means to extend Moore's Law. The chip giant helped get EUV off the ground, and, in 2004, it was said to have installed an EUV micro-exposure tool from U.K.-based Exitech Ltd for R&D. The chip giant was also supposed to obtain an R&D tool from Nikon by last year.

Lately, the NAND flash crowdsuch as Samsung, Toshiba and othersare interested in EUV technology for good reason: leading-edge 193nm immersion tools are expected to hit the wall at the 32nm node or so. NAND vendors are pushing the limits of lithography, but the tool suppliers are not staying up with Moore's Law.

Beyond 32nm, there are a number of lithographic options, including 193nm immersion with double patterning, EUV, multibeam e-beam and nanoimprint. Multibeam e-beam and nanoimprint are not ready for prime time, while EUV appears to have a long way to go.

There are two major suppliers of EUV tools: Nikon and ASML Holding NV. ASML has shipped two early alpha tools, one to Belgian research group IMEC, and another to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University at Albany in New York. IMEC and CNSE will collaborate on extreme ultraviolet lithography experiments as a means to accelerate the introduction of EUVL into manufacturing. ASML is nowhere close to shipping an EUV production tool for fabs, it was noted.

In 2002, 10 Japanese companies formed an R&D association to develop EUV. The Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography System Development Association (EUVA) includes lithography manufacturers Canon Inc. and Nikon; light source manufacturers Komatsu Ltd, Ushio Inc. and Gigaphoton Inc.; and device manufacturers Fujitsu Ltd, NEC Electronics Corp., Renesas Technology Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

For some time, Nikon has been developing an EUV tool for R&D. That tool, now dubbed the EUV1, is a 13.5nm wavelength machine. It has a projection lens that is equipped to support a numerical aperture of 0.25.

A production tool, dubbed the EUV2, is also a 13.5nm machine with an NA of 0.25. It will have an overall resolution of 32nm (half-pitch) and the ability to pattern 21nm lines and spaces.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times




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