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ASML to benefit from Nikon EUV litho delay

Posted: 19 May 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EUV? lithography? extreme ultraviolet?

Nikon is said to have put on hold development of some of its extreme ultraviolet (EUV) tools, which could give ASML a huge early advantage in commercial deployments of the emerging chip making technology.

According to Richard Windsor, industry specialist at securities house Nomura this is somewhat surprising as this technology was loudly touted earlier this year. "Nikon at that time also discussed a 2012 shipment date but clearly that is now uncertain."

Windsor notes that by contrast ASML's EUV program looks "very much on track" and the Veldhoven, Holland-based company "aims to ship beta tools to customers in the second half of 2010."

He suggests that if the Japanese tools developer does not restart investments in EUV soon, "ASML's virtual monopoly may well become a real one. We estimate this lead to be at 18 months but clearly that will now meaningfully increase."

"We are surprised by Nikon's decision and I can only conclude that agonies being endured in Japan are greater than those being suffered in Veldhoven," adds Windsor.

The development will not please Intel, which still dual sources lithography equipment and has been testing Nikon EUV prototypes, the Nomura industry specialist emphasizes.

"Consequently, I suspect that Nikon's program will restart sooner rather than later with some pressure/help from Intel. Whatever happens, ASML is a net winner from this."

The analysis comes despite "the substantial progress that Nikon showed at this year's SPIE Advanced Lithography event in March."

As EE Times reported at the time, there was something of a triple-whammy for lithographers at the SPIE conference, as the industry continues to be plagued by an R&D gap, technology delays, and, of course, the lousy economy.

Experts at the event warned about an alarming R&D funding shortfall for the various next-generation lithography technologiesEUV, maskless and nanoimprintcreating more fear, uncertainty and doubt about the insertion of these schemes for mass IC production. There was a feeling that some technologies like EUV remain delayed or on the ropes, leaving leading-edge chip makers to resort to an assortment of complex, costly and unpopular double-patterning schemes.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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