Has EUV finally come of age?

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Is it possible that, after years of undelivered expectations, extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography has made the leap from tomorrow’s technology to a critical tool in the semiconductor manufacturing process?

A number of things point to EUV finally coming of age. One is the boast by EUV manufacturer ASML that, having shipped ’10 to 12’ systems last year, it expects to ship at least 20 this year and ‘at least’ 30 systems in 2018. And this year’s systems will have 250W light sources, allowing 125 wafers to be processed per hour. In its latest financial statement, ASML said it had ‘crossed the €1.1billion annual revenue mark and exited the year with a backlog of 28 systems with a value of more than €3bn’.

Another important testimonial comes from the leading foundry TSMC, whose chief financial officer Lauro Ho told investors this week: “We spent several hundred millions on EUV since last year. Going forward, EUV investment will continue to go up.”

TSMC’s co CEO Mark Liu said significant progress had been made in improving EUV capability. “We have been consistently demonstrating high yield on N7+ and N5 development,” he noted, referring to the company’s development of 5 and 7nm processes. “EUV source power is now operating at 160W to support our N7 and N5 development activities. EUV scanners with a source power of 250W have been installed in our fabs and … we are confident that our EUV technology will be ready for high-volume production for N7+ in 2019 and N5 in 2020.”

However, it appears that EUV will still be a ‘point solution’ for TSMC, rather than a tool used in all lithographic steps. Co CEO CC Wei noted: “We’re using EUV to replace some of the immersion layers. For example, one EUV layer can replace three layers of immersion.”