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SPIE Litho wraps with delays, double-patterning

Posted: 02 Mar 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lithography? extreme ultraviolet? EUV? double-patterning?

The themes of this year's SPIE Advanced Lithography event were clear: D and Ddelays and double-patterning. Indeed, extreme ultraviolet (EUV) is delayed. So is maskless. And nanoimprint is still stuck in R&D.

This leaves chipmakers to ride the 193nm immersion wave. They must also look at dreaded double-patterning techniques. In any case, here's what EE Times observed at SPIE:

EUV woes continue
EUV lithography is delayedagain. Now, the industry faces dreaded double-patterning or some variation of the technology to extend 193nm immersion.

Self-assembly grabs spotlight
If there is a darling of this year's SPIE, it just might be directed self-assembly, a technology that emerged in recent years to land on the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors and is considered a potential candidate to extend optical lithography. That article can be read here.

Direct-write litho face uphill climb
At least according to one prominent lithography researcher, multi-beam production tools are still a minimum of five years away.

Nanoimprint stuck in R&D
While nanoimprint has not cracked mainstream production in semiconductor fabs, as some had hoped at one time, the technology has been delayed in perhaps its biggest potential market: HDDs.

Tool vendors remain
The fab tool market is "hot" and litho vendors are seeing lead times stretch out to 15 months for new orders, said G. Dan Hutcheson, CEO of market research firm VLSI Technology Inc.

Still, vendors are worried. Why? "The market is recovering. Last year, we were at the bottom and it was scary. It's not quite time to celebrate," said Hamid Zarringhalam, VP of technical sales and marketing at Nikon Precision Inc. "Things are looking better. We are seeing growth. But it will take time to fully recover."

Another tool vendor sees a "double dip" coming. Others still see more technology buys verses capacity buys.

Smaller crowd
The SPIE event itself seemed smaller than last year, but attendance was OK. Missing at the event were the booths of the big name players. Applied, ASML, Canon and Nikon did not have booths. So foot traffic in the exhibition hall was light. OK. It was a ghost town.

Let's laugh a little
Let's face it: SPIE is sometimes dry and boring. However, TSMC tried to change the mood. During a presentation, TSMC attempted to convince the audience that EUV is cheaper than double-patterning. In a chart, it proved its point. The trouble: TSMC neglected to add EUV mask costs to the equation, meaning its data was wrong and pointless. It did draw some much needed laughter during the dry event. Thanks for the memories, TSMC.

M&A in the air?
We get the feeling it's a make-or-break year for some litho vendors. IMS, Mapper, MII and others must show more progressor else. Consolidation appears to be in the air. Our feeling: ASML could enter the nanoimprint field, which could shake up the landscape.

We want to party!BR>There were fewer receptions this year. Nikon had its event. Canon did not have its party. Brion, now part of ASML, did not hold its annual event. ASML had a party for customers, but it was not open to the media. To be honest, SPIE was a gloomy event.

No time to party
On the other hand, there's too much to cover at SPIE (i.e. EUV, ML2, nanoimprint, self-assembly, etc.). So we have little or no time for the receptions or parties. (Ok. Maybe one or two).

- Mark LaPedus, Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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