'Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) will switch on its first extreme ultraviolet (EUV) machine in two weeks. The milestone marks the next step in the foundry's goal of evaluating three competing lithography machines for making next-generation chips.
"We are the only company that has been open about trying all three—we are sticking our necks out," said Burn Lin, vice president of the nano-patterning division at TSMC, at a reception for the Semi Taiwan event.
TSMC is already testing an alpha prototype version of a direct-write electron beam system from Mapper Lithography BV and getting "good results," he said. TSMC will install an e-beam machine from KLA Tencor next year, Lin added.
Ultimately, TSMC will choose only one machine, likely for first use at the 14nm node.
"In less than two years we hope to determine which is best," Lin said. TSMC purchased and installed the 3100 version of ASML's EUV system. It will turn on its light source for the first time in two weeks.
Engineers have labored for years on EUV lithography but to date throughput for the machines is still far below commercial levels while their cost is reportedly greater than $120 million. Lin said he has high hopes for the e-beam systems because they do not require masks, saving complexity and cost.'
"In lithography, today's 193-nm immersion systems will serve both the 28-nm node TSMC is ramping now and the next-generation 20-nm node. But at 20 nm, fabs will need to use double patterning, essentially running wafers through some exposure processes twice to draw finer lines."