Tag Archives: ASML

EUV Cost at 1000 Daily Exposures

On October 14, 2015, ASML Holding N.V. (ASML) published its 2015 third-quarter results:  Q3 net sales of €1.55 billion with gross margin of 45.4% (in line with guidance), and guided Q4 2015 net sales at approximately €1.4 billion and a gross margin of around 45%. Due to mismatched financial analyst expectations, Bloomberg reported that ASML’s stock price dropped ~7% in a single day of trading, despite the company also reporting upgrades to both the TWINSCAN NXT 193nm-immersion (193i) and the NXE Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) tools. In particular, a new record of 1000 wafer exposures in a single day was set by one EUV tool.

The science of controlling the 13.54nm wavelength electromagnetic radiation that we like to call “Extreme Ultra-Violet” or “EUV” (instead of the colloquial scientific term “soft x-ray”) is inherently challenging. The engineering of EUV Lithography is not just challenging but bordering on inherently impossible:  from exploding tin plasma source, to all-reflective lenses that absorb energy, to the trade-offs in mask pattern protection. The team at ASML working on the exposure tool—along with the different specialist organizations still working on improved sources, masks, and resists—deserve the industry’s unwavering admiration for the important work they do every day.

In a prepared statement, ASML President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink said, “We have proven the capability both to expose 1,000 wafers per day and, in a manufacturing readiness test, to expose 15,000 wafers in four weeks. We have also achieved a four-week average availability of more than 70 percent  at multiple customer sites. The first shipment of our fourth-generation EUV lithography system, the NXE 3350B, is in progress, with two more expected to ship in Q4.”

Still, progress along desired EUV roadmaps continues to be slow, and the competitive target shifts when the 193i exposure tool gains a 10% throughput improvement to 275 wafer-passes/hour (wph). When the 193i tool gains a 30% overlay improvement, that means double-patterning based on litho-etch-litho-etch (LELE) process flows gain in pattern fidelity. Since ASML provides both technologies, delays in orders for EUV just means more sales of 193i tools.

Let’s play with the numbers here…275 wph x 20 hours x 30 days = 165k wafer-passes/month for the NXT:1980. The NXE:3350B can current handle 15k wafer-passes/month. So even if the tools were equally priced, just based on tool depreciation each EUV exposure today costs >10x that of a 193i exposure, which is why pitch-splitting multi-patterning 193i continues to dominate.

—E.K.

ASML Books Production EUV Orders

TSMC commits to two tools for delivery next year

Maybe, just maybe, ASML Holding N.V. (ASML) has made the near-impossible a reality by creating a cost-effective Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV @ ~13.5nm wavelength) all-reflective lithographic tool. The company has announced that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) has ordered two NXE:3350B EUV systems for delivery in 2015 with the intention to use those systems in production. In addition, two NXE:3300B systems already delivered to TSMC will be upgraded to NXE:3350B performance. While costs and throughputs are conspicuously not-mentioned, this is still an important step for the industry.
Perhaps acquiring Cymer to get the source-technology in-house for tighter integration was important. Perhaps evolutionary improvements crept along by tough engineering rigor. Perhaps the industry got lucky. One way or the other, ASML has had the goal of delivering not just hardware but functional uptime/availability using very complex EUV technology, and now it seems to be on the cusp of making it happen. The company claims that current EUV tools are available 50% of the time, at unspecified source power levels.
At its Investor Day in London today, ASML outlined its expected opportunity to grow net sales to about EUR 10 billion and to triple earnings per share by 2020, an indication of the confidence the company has in its technology and employees. Much of the growth will be in Deep-UV immersion tools, and in so-called “Holistic Lithography” products to deliver advanced correction capabilities. An example of Holistic Litho is Source-Mask-Optimization (SMO) that can be used for triple-patterning of a 48nm minimum pitch metal layer using DUV immersion in a Litho-Etch-Litho-Etch-Litho-Etch (LELELE) flow, such that the Depth-of-Focus (DoF) can be increased from 70 to 86nm. Holistic EUV means that SMO can reduce the dose required to get 120nm DoF from 46 to 20 mJ/cm2 for a 45nm minimum pitch metal layer.
The presentations can be found at the company’s website.
— E. K.