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The Optical Lithography Roadmap

The optical lithography roadmap has been rewritten numerous times over the years due to delays in Next Generation Lithography (NGL) technologies. Even today, a high level of uncertainty remains as the industry awaits Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV), the leading next generation technology candidate. EUV continues to be delayed as inserting it at 10 nm has presented a number of challenges that must be overcome prior to its release. Additionally, the optical lithography roadmap is also very much up in the air due to the industry’s issues with the transition to 450 mm wafers and an ongoing search for advanced nodes, which are required for such NGL technologies as directed self-assembly and maskless and nano technology developments.

These delays in NGL technologies have caused a significant amount of panic throughout the industry as many were worried that processes would come to a halt, requiring immediate need for an effective NGL technology. Luckily, however, this has not yet been the case. The industry has been able to continue use of lithography for 193 nm to create wafers for semiconductor industry operations.

While this older technology is still working, chipmakers are anxiously waiting for EUV technology to develop, so they can revert back to single exposure and have a more strongly developed roadmap. Companies have been attempting to push the development of EUV and 450 mm at quicker rates, investing in ASML, which has produced a 300mm EUV scanner that is capable of images at 9 nm. Despite issues with the power source as well as photomasks and resists, TSMC, one of the investor companies, sees that ASML is making much progress with EUV, and has committed to investing in its tools for the 10 nm ramp in 2016.

In order to put EUV into production, TSMC has to first obtain ASML’s scanner and resolve all major and minor issues found with the technology. This process must be complete, and proven to be reliable and cost effective at least two or three years prior to implementation. Although the task is large, TSMC is confident in themselves as a company and firmly believes that the technologies offered by ASML will have the ability to process one to two critical layers at 10 nm. Other companies, however, are quite skeptical believing that 7 nm is more realistically achievable.

As of now, it is clear that the optical lithography roadmap is in a state of disarray. As companies continue to work toward their goals in NGL, we will hopefully start to better see how production will take shape. At Shin-Etsu MicroSi, a supplier to the semiconductor manufacturing industry, we are always on top of the latest technologies as they pertain to our industry, and will continue to monitor developments in NGL as they unfold over the next few years. If you are interested in any products to maintain or improve your semiconductor manufacturing operations, trust in our customer service oriented team to deliver you with friendly, helpful service and high quality, technologically advanced products. To learn more, call Shin-Etsu MicroSi at (480) 893-8898 or contact us online.