ASML Holding NV (Veldhoven, The Netherlands), the world's leading supplier of lithography equipment for chip manufacturing, has reported that one customer has succeeded in exposing 637 wafers on one of its EUV systems within a single day.
This exceeds a target set for ASML of 500 wafers per day to be achieved by the end of this year.
EUV lithography has yet to reach the technical specification to allow commercial adoption of the technology and one of the main issues has been the brightness of the source. This governs resist exposure times and how long wafers must stay in a machine which ultimately affects productivity and the cost of the process.
Conventionally manufacturers look for throughputs of about 100 wafers per hour on conventional lithography machines. Even at lower hourly rates 1,600 wafers a day is an industry level of expectation.
It recent years progress with EUV lithography development has slowed causing its insertion into mainstream production to be put back but it remains the most likely contender to get chip manufacturing to process nodes below 10nm. However, the industry is starting to contemplate that the continuation of Moore's Law at dramatically increased cost may not be desirable or necessary.
"We are pleased that one of our systems was able to expose 637 wafers in a day in an endurance test, which demonstrates the current capability of our EUV platform. The endurance test was designed to simulate a production run," said Peter Wennink, CEO of ASML, in a statement. The run was done on an NXE:3300B EUV system at an IBM site, according to reports that referenced a company spokesperson.
"The run exceeded the 500 wafer per day requirement that our customers had set us for the end of the year. However, since this is only a single data point, this performance now needs to be repeated on multiple days and multiple systems, which is the goal of our availability improvement programs that will be executed throughout the remainder of the year," Wennink also said in the statement.
EUV is falling short of industry expectations has put ASML, previously a favorite of the semiconductor equipment sector, under pressure – mainly due to the billions of dollars and years of effort it has invested in developing a technology which it is still not certain will be deployed for volume production.
Share price rises
Nonetheless the share market reacted positively to the statement and pushed ASML's stock price up 15 percent at the opening on Wednesday, July 30.
Earlier in the month ASML reported a net income of €399 million (about $530 million) on revenues of €1,644 million (about $2.20 billion) for the second quarter of 2014.
However, ASML had reduced its full-year net sales forecast to around €5.6 billion as logic customers pushed out the timing of capacity ramps for their next nodes and it pushed the delivery of three EUV systems out into 2015. At the time Wennink said: "In our EUV source development program, we demonstrated improvements towards the customer requirement for volume production in 2016 of typically 1,500 wafers per day. We are working closely with customers to determine the volume production insertion points for the 10 and 7 nanometer nodes."
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