ASML CTO Expects Post High-NA Lithography to be Prohibitively Costly

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In an interview with Bits & Chips, ASML’s CTO Martin van den Brink said that he believes that we might be reaching the end of the road for current semiconductor lithography technology in the not so distant future. However, for the time being, ASML is executing on its roadmap and after EUV, the next step is high-NA or high-numerical aperture and ASML is currently planning to have its first research high-NA scanner ready for a joint R&D venture with Imec in 2023. Assuming everything goes to plan, ASML is then planning on delivering the first R&D machines to its customers in 2024, followed by volume production using high-NA machines sometime in 2025. Van den Brink points out that due to the current supply chain uncertainties could affect the timing, in combination with the fact that ASML has a high demand for its EUV machines and the two technologies share a lot of components.

As such, current orders are the priority and high-NA development might be put on the back burner if need be, or as Van den Brink puts it “today’s meal takes priority over tomorrow’s.” High-NA scanners are expected to be even more power hungry than EUV machines and are as such expected to pull around two Megawatts for the various stages. The next step in the evolution of semiconductor lithography is where ASML is expecting things to get problematic, as what the company is currently calling hyper-NA is expected to be prohibitively costly to manufacture and use. If the cost of hyper-NA grows as fast as we’ve seen in high-NA, it will pretty much be economically unfeasible,” Van den Brink said. ASML is hoping to overcome the cost issues, but for now, the company has a plan for the next decade and things could very well change during that time and remove some of the obstacles that are currently being seen.

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