18 Apr 2012
Production EUV systems now being integrated in Veldhoven, but revenues will not be recognized until early 2013.
Lithography giant ASML says that it is on track to ship its first production tools for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) systems in the second half of this year, despite ongoing delays with the output power of EUV sources.
In the company’s Q1 2012 financial results announcement, ASML said that it had now begun integrating EUV systems at its Veldhoven headquarters in The Netherlands, but added that it was now implementing a different shipment process, and would not recognize revenues from customers until early 2013.
Two EUV tools will be shipped this year as planned, with the likelihood of an upgrade to the EUV source power subsequently. That’s because the highest EUV power level to have been demonstrated so far for the production environment is only 30 W – well short of the desired 100 W level that is required to make the minimum acceptable throughput level of 60 wafers per hour.
ASML said that an unspecified EUV light source supplier, likely Cymer, had demonstrated 30 W output at a high duty cycle and with acceptable dose stability over an extended period of time. Including a pre-pulse laser step, 50 W has been shown, although not yet with the production-worthy characteristics.
Cymer uses a high-power CO2 laser aimed at tiny droplets of tin to drive the EUV-emitting plasma, and is developing a pre-pulse laser step to improve the efficiency of the process - meaning that EUV lithography is emerging as a significant market for the likes of Trumpf.
“Our EUV technology has made significant progress,” said CEO Eric Meurice. “We continue to improve the efficiency of the system to reach our objective of 60 wafers per hour in the second half of 2012.”
The company is now preparing to ship the first 11 production EUV systems on order between Q4 2012 and the summer of 2013. Each of those tools is expected to cost in the region of $125 million, and Meurice says that the company has now started to negotiate for a new batch of orders for EUV systems, for customer production ramps.
The six ASML pre-production EUV tools already in the field have now been used to image more than 9000 semiconductor wafers, with Meurice describing their performance, in terms of feature-writing precision (stable overlay performance of less than 2 nm), as “extraordinary”.
“We still do not have the proven source power [needed for high-volume production] in situ,” the CEO said, although he did add that confidence in the technology had increased, and that reaching the 60 wafers per hour benchmark was not in doubt.
ASML reported flat sales in the latest quarter, posting revenues of €1.25 billion – up from €1.21 billion sequentially but down on a year-over-year basis, and netting the company a profit of $282 million.