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TSMC plans to use EUV lithography for 5nm process technology

For quite a while, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has been talking about using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography for its advanced 10nm process technology. However, since appropriate scanners are not ready and will not be for at least a couple of years, the company will be unable to take advantage of EUV for a long time. At present, TSMC intends to use EUV only for its 5nm fabrication process, which is due in four to five years from now.

Extreme ultraviolet lithography scanners feature lasers with 13.5nm wavelength that allow to “draw” finer features of chips and eliminate many challenging technologies that have to be used today in conjunction with current-gen lithography tools. In particular, EUV will eliminate need for multi-patterning, will shrink cycle times and will help to improve yields of chips made using leading-edge process technologies.

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Right now EUV scanners are not ready for commercial production of chips and ASML, a leading maker of semiconductor production equipment, is working closely with TSMC and other leading makers of chips to prepare the new devices. TSMC plans to try EUV with its 7nm fabrication process in 2017 – 2018 and then use it commercially to make chips using 5nm manufacturing technology.

“As you can see in our 7nm development schedule that probably will not using EUV,” said Mark Liu, president and co-CEO of TSMC, during the company’s earnings conference call with investors and financial analysts. “But we are planning to exercise EUV using the 7nm technology and currently we are planning to use EUV at 5nm. But of course it does depend certain development criteria, milestones to be reached.”

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At present TSMC expects to start volume production of chips using 7nm process technology sometimes in the first half of 2018. Considering how aggressively the company intends to introduce new manufacturing processes going forward, it is possible that it will start trial production using 5nm EUV process technology in 2018 – 2019 timeframe.

“[EUV] has a good benefit from our assessment […] on the 5nm that reduce[s] a lot of masking layers and increase[s] a lot of better control for the 5nm,” said Mr. Liu.

Intel Corp. plans to use EUV tools for production using 7nm fabrication process towards the end of the decade.

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KitGuru Says: Based on the comments recently made by Intel and TSMC, it is obvious that extreme ultraviolet lithography will only become commercially viable in 2019 – 2020. Until then, chipmakers will have to deal with multi-patterning and all the associated problems, which is not a good news for smaller chip designers.

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