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ASML describes 22nm litho road map

Posted: 01 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lithography systems  22nm  single-patterning  EUV systems 

Amid a shaky economic climate, ASML Holding NV revealed its road map for lithography systems needed to drive semiconductors down to 22nm and beyond. ASML said it is prepared to ship its next-generation immersion lithography system next year and its extreme UV (EUV) system in 2010.

The company's current single-patterning immersion system is rated down to 38nm technology. The TwinScan NXT product due next June uses double patterning technology to reach to 19nm. ASML's EUV systems should be available for use on the 22nm node starting in 2010, although they won't be ready for mass production until later.

ASML's high-index immersion research seeks new liquids and lenses to extend the technology for use beyond 19nm.

Confidence in EUV technology
Executives said it's unlikely the industry will see further extensions to immersion technology. However, they expressed confidence the troubled EUV technology is making progress, and said they have orders for five production systems to be delivered starting 2010.

"If you want to keep dreaming, there could be life for triple or multiple patterning, but economics will be a factor and before we enter that phase EUV will come in," said Jos Benschop, VP of research at ASML. ASML maintains a research program in high-index immersion that seeks new liquids and lenses to extend the technology for use beyond 19nm, Benschop said. "But momentum for high index is decreasing," he added, "so most likely we will decrease our work in that area."

Benschop explained that increasing throughput is the technology's chief challenge.

The ASML update comes at a time when the industry stands at the edge of a downturn. Chipmakers are keeping a tight lid on supply, closing down older 200mm fabs and not upgrading newer lines, said Peter Wennink, chief finance officer at ASML. "The big questions now are how much the global economic crisis will impact consumer demand and how long that lasts," he said.

The top five chipmakers, including Intel and Samsung, will be able to fund fab expansions when they see consumer demand rise. Second-tier companies will have difficulty obtaining credit, and smaller firms are already finding some of their options closed, Wennink said.

"The equipment leasing market is now closed for this year because no one knows what to do," he said.

ASML posted Q3 08 net sales of Rs.4,663.39 crore ($932 million), down from Rs.5,504.00 crore ($1.1 billion) in Q2 08, reflecting the climate of tightening chip supply. The company still eked out a net profit of almost Rs.490.36 crore ($98 million), down from Rs.1,285.94 crore ($257 million) the previous quarter.

With no clarity on how deep or long the coming downturn may be, ASML was guarded in its outlook. CEO Eric Meurice said the company expects to report quarterly operating profits, but that may require some unspecified cost adjustments.

This year, the semiconductor industry could grow by 5 per cent, but the capital equipment sector is expected to shrink by as much as 25 per cent, said Antonio Kusters, director of market intelligence at ASML. "The mismatch calls for a correction, but the question is when does it come?" he added.

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