ASML’s extreme ultraviolet lithography and its role in extending Moore’s Law is the focus of a report in The Wall Street Journal by Stu Woo and Maarten van Tartwijk.
ASML got its start in 1984, when Philips and Advanced Semiconductor Materials International (ASMI) created it to develop lithography systems. ASML’s first product was the PAS 2000 stepper. Other product milestones include the TWINSCAN dual-stage system in 2001 and the TWINSCAN XT:1900i immersion system in 2007.
In 2010 the company shipped its first NXE:3100 prototype EUV lithography tool and in 2013 completed the acquisition of light-source manufacturer Cymer to accelerate the development of EUV. The company continues to develop immersion lithography systems.
To boost funding for EUV development, ASML in 2012 created what it calls the Customer Co-Investment Program with three key customers—Intel, TSMC, and Samsung—all of which agreed to contribute to the R&D of next-generation lithography technologies over five years. The Journal article puts the combined investment at $6 billion, noting that Samsung last month sold half its ASML shares to raise money but would continue its EUV partnership with the company.
ASML reported earlier this year that it expects IC manufacturers to begin using EUV for production in 2018. The company said that a production rate of around 1,500 wafers per day will make EUV more cost-effective than multipatterning, which the Journal reporters describe as a “time-consuming trick” (without using the term).
The Journal reporters quote Hans Meiling, who oversees ASML’s EUV effort, as saying of the technology, “It’s a combination of physics, chemistry, and mechanics that is pretty complex. It has taken us a long time to get where we are.”
They further quote Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu as saying that given the “uncertainties” and the “extremely complex technology,” chipmakers “will all hesitate until the last minute about the best approach to introduce EUV in their production lines.”
See related article “EUV key technology for IC production, inspection.”