ASML Holding NV, the world's leading supplier of lithography equipment, is forming the Advanced Patterning Center with research institute IMEC to try and address problems as manufacturing moves towards single-digit nanometer dimensions.
The center will be based at IMEC's campus in Leuven, Belgium, and ASML and IMEC expect the work force to approach 100 engineers within two years. The campus contains a pilot line fab that is capable of using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography tools on 300-mm diameter wafers with a planned extension for research on 450-mm diameter wafers.
While EUV lithography has yet to reach the technical specification level to allow commercial adoption, it remains the most likely contender to get chip manufacturing to process nodes below 10-nm. Other techniques with significance could include self-aligned self-assembly.
AMSL (Veldhoven, the Netherlands) and IMEC did not disclose how much they intend to spend setting up and running the Advanced Patterning Center. But the workforce target shows a measure of the intent.
Critical dimension uniformity and overlay control will soon have to be measured in fractions of a nanometer if miniaturization is to continue. ASML and IMEC said they will use the center to investigate multiple steps in chip patterning. At the center, this will be done using actual devices to analyze process steps and device choices and apply integrated metrology.
"By bringing our collaboration to the next level, we will be able to expand our knowledge base more quickly and drive lithography advancements," said Luc Van den Hove, CEO of IMEC, in a statement. "In this way the global partner network of both companies will have access to the most advanced patterning processes for sub-10 nanometer technologies."