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Zygo sues SUNY for 'unpaid' $2.6M EUV work

11 Apr 2016

Precision optical metrology firm says the university has not paid in full for its development of EUV optics equipment.

Zygo, the optical metrology company that is now part of instrumentation firm Ametek, is suing the State University of New York (SUNY), over the alleged non-payment of a research contract relating to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) technology and some of the most precise optics ever fabricated.

In a court filing seen by optics.org, Zygo said that although SUNY had paid out $7.2 million relating to the work, it had failed to pay the most recent two invoices issued. They total $2.6 million and Zygo says that they were sent to SUNY in December 2014 and March 2015.

Zygo adds that although SUNY has acknowledged that all the project milestones have been met, it had “failed and refused” to pay the outstanding invoices. As a result, Zygo is still in possession of a key part of the fifth-generation micro-exposure tool called “MET5” that was developed under the project, and is currently storing the equipment at its own facility.

'Ready and willing'
“Zygo has completed all of its contracted work and is ready, willing and able to proceed with installation of the MET5 projection optic at [SUNY’s] Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in accordance with the contract,” states the filing.

Zygo adds that it made numerous inquiries to SUNY regarding the outstanding $2.6 million payments, including “dozens” of inquiries by telephone and email throughout 2015.

“SUNY declined to respond to many of Zygo’s inquiries,” says the optics firm. “When it did respond, SUNY acknowledged that the Zygo invoice balances were recorded in SUNY’s accounts payable system and were ‘awaiting funding’ that was expected in 2015. SUNY never objected to nor disputed Zygo’s entitlement to the accounts stated in the invoices.”

According to the court’s case records, an answer to the Zygo complaint from SUNY is due by April 27.

2011 contract win
Following collaboration with Zygo and semiconductor equipment developers within the Sematech consortium, CNSE’s Albany Nanotech Complex had been due to use the MET5 equipment to push the development of next-generation lithography equipment based on EUV light.

Zygo announced that it had won the contract to supply the tool in October 2011, saying at the time:

“The MET5 program is intended to aid researchers in extending semiconductor lithography resolution capability to less than 16 nm. This is in support of EUV resist and EUV mask developments intended to meet the international technology roadmap for semiconductors and associated decreasing linewidths.”

The work, carried out by Zygo's extreme precision optics operation in Richmond, California, had been expected to take slightly less than two years to complete.

Then in April 2012, Zygo announced an additional $2 million contract award for EUV optics from “a major semiconductor manufacturer”, the deal said to be associated with the MET5 development program.

‘One-of-a-kind’ optic
In an interview with optics.org published shortly after that follow-on order, the president of Zygo’s optical division John Stack said: “For MET5, we are working on what are arguably some of the most precise optics ever made. We will produce an assembly incorporating a two mirror Schwarzschild set, and it will be a true one-of-a-kind optic. At the accuracies we are targeting, nothing can be taken for granted. Our goal is to be a major player in EUV optics markets.”

In the meantime, the development of EUV lithography technology has been delayed multiple times – although key equipment firm ASML insists that its $100 M-plus systems are now close to a ramp in advance of commercial chip production.

According to a 2013 presentation by Zygo, CNSE and Sematech, German optics giant Zeiss was building the illuminator and reticle metrology sub-system for MET5, while Zygo was producing the projection optics box sub-system.

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