At the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference, ASML announced the NXE:3400B, the extreme ultraviolet lithography scanner that it hopes makes it into volume-production fabs.
Shipping this week, the first 3400B is the company's first rated to produce 125 wafers/hour, the throughput target for use in production fabs. This target was not achieved by increasing the light source up to the target level of 250 W. ASML says the system should eventually be able to hit 210W. However, the system's high throughput was achieved by speeding up wafer handling inside the machine. Initially, the 3400B is expected to run at 148 W to produce 104 wafers/h.
For those not familiar with Extreme ultraviolet lithography (also known as EUV or EUVL), it is the a next-generation lithography technology using an extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength, currently expected to be 13.5 nm. EUV is currently being developed for high volume use by 2020.
Immersion lithography is still at least three times faster than EUV, due to EUV source power limitations. Current throughput at customer site is 1,200 wafers per day with 80% availability, while conventional tools produce 5,000 wafers per day with 95% availability.
Currently, 14 EUV systems have been installed in various plants worldwide. Most of them are expected to be upgraded, a process that could take two years.
ASML plans to upgrade the systen's light-source, in part because it knows that users need headroom to make up for underperforming resist chemicals and optics that will degrade over time. But the company is cannot disclose when those upgrades will arrive.
Still, real hurdles ahead remain towards using EUVL equipment for the future generation chips. For instance, it is not clear whether photo-resist materials will be effective at light exposures of 20 mJ/cm2. The fact is that current resists need 30 mJ/cm2. What's more, the road map still depends on a variety of other ASML and third-party tools arriving in synch, including pellicles to keep contaminating particles off of EUV wafers.