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Is TSMC switching to Nikon?

Posted: 08 Jan 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lithography  immersion scanner  double-patterning 

For years, foundry giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd has primarily used ASML Holding NV as its lithography vendor. But in a surprise move, TSMC has procured a new 193nm immersion lithography scanner from rival Nikon Corp., according to sources.

In fact, after being shut out of the leading-edge foundry equipment business for the most part, Japan's Nikon has finally cracked the TSMC account, raising questions about TSMC's relationship with ASML.

According to a filing with the Taiwan stock exchange, TSMC disclosed that it has made a NT$1,087,947,900 (Rs.156.69 crore) transaction with Nikon, but the documents did not elaborate on the details.

Sources said TSMC has or will procure one of Nikon's 193nm immersion scanners. The foundry giant reportedly procured Nikon's latest tool, the NSR-S620, a 193nm immersion scanner for 32nm (and beyond) chip production. The tool is also geared for double-patterning applications.

In the past, TSMC has procured older i-line scanners from Nikon. But this is the first time that TSMC has bought an immersion lithography system from Nikon.

It is widely believed that TSMC is evaluating the NSR-S620, possibly for a potential run-off or competition at a future node with ASML. The foundry giant may be testing the waters with the NSR-S620.

Still, TSMC continues to use ASML as its main lithography vendor. ASML is not in danger of losing the TSMC account, according to sources. Officials from TSMC did not return e-mail inquiries.

TSMC itself appears to be on a buying spree. Thanks to a flurry of tool buys in December worth nearly Rs.6,555.11 crore ($1.4 billion), TSMC's total 2009 capital expenditures ended up exceeding Rs.14,046.67 crore ($3 billion), according to an analysis of regulatory filings. TSMC most recently said it would spend Rs.12,642.00 crore ($2.7 billion) on capital spending in 2009. The company in October raised its spending target from Rs.10,769.11 crore ($2.3 billion). At the time, TSMC had spent about Rs.6,367.82 crore ($1.36 billion) on capital expenditures through the first three quarters of the year.

TSMC made nearly Rs.913.03 crore ($195 million) worth of equipment purchases in October and slightly more than Rs.374.58 crore ($80 million) worth in November, according to filings, made with the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

TSMC bought equipment from 18 different vendors in 46 separate transactions between Dec. 2 and Dec. 31, according to the filings. The company has kept the money flowing early in 2010, with six buys totalling nearly Rs.646.15 crore ($138 million) through the first six days of the year, according to filings. TSMC is expected to spend more in 2010, with many expecting the company to invest at least Rs.18,728.89 crore ($4 billion) in capital expenditures.

The December tally includes three separate purchases from lithography vendor ASML totalling more than Rs.1,006.68 crore ($215 million), nearly Rs.1,147.14 crore ($245 million) worth of gear from Applied Materials Inc., about Rs.543.14 crore ($116 million) worth of equipment from KLA-Tencor Corp. and roughly Rs.627.42 crore ($134 million) in buys from Tokyo Electron Ltd.

Other vendors TSMC bought tools from last month included Ebara Corp., Novellus Systems Corp., Hitachi Kokusai Electric Inc., Dainippon Screen Mfg. Co. Ltd, Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc., Lam Research Corp. and others.

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