Three major misunderstandings of lithography machines

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1/ DUV and EUV are restricted, and the logic of domestic expansion is broken?

Lithography machines are roughly divided into two categories:

1) DUV deep ultraviolet lithography machine: can prepare chips from 0.13um to 28/14/7nm;

2) EUV extreme ultraviolet lithography machine: suitable for chips below 7nm to 5/4/3nm.

Under the current situation, DUV lithography machines are not restricted to China, and are still being supplied normally, because the suppliers are mainly from ASML in the Netherlands in Europe, Nikon and Canon in Japan, and are not directly subject to the US ban, but EUV is not currently available.

Looking back at the history of lithography machines, we found that: DUV technology was independently developed by Japan and the Netherlands: since it surpassed Nikon to become the global leader in lithography machines in 2006, its industry leadership has maintained to this day. At the same time, since the core immersion technology mainly comes from TSMC, the United States does not have a dominant position in the DUV field, and ASML does not need authorization from the United States to ship DUV lithography machines to China.

EUV has been fully controlled by the United States from the capital and technology levels since its birth (it is fundamentally different from DUV): In 1997, the EUV LLC alliance was established, led by Intel and the US government. ASML acquired Brion in the United States in 2007. After acquiring the lithography technology, it successfully started the road of mergers and acquisitions of American lithography companies. So far, the United States has begun to infiltrate ASML in terms of EUV technology. In 2012, Intel, Samsung, and TSMC jointly bought 23% of ASML’s shares, obtained the priority supply right of ASML lithography machines, and became a community of interests.

2/ Can a chip be made with a lithography machine?

In fact, photolithography is only one of the seven major process links in the semiconductor front-end process (lithography, etching, deposition, ion implantation, cleaning, oxidation, and detection). Although it is one of the most important links, it leaves the other six links. Neither of those will work.

The manufacturing process of integrated circuits is divided into “three major and four minor” processes: three major (75%): photolithography, etching, deposition; four minor (25%): cleaning, oxidation, detection, ion implantation.

Under normal circumstances, lithography accounts for 30% of the equipment investment of the entire production line, and it is one of the three most important front-end equipment alongside etching machines (25%) and PVD/CVD/ALD (25%), so it is not Chips can be made with a lithography machine. Lithography is only one of the chip manufacturing process, and it also needs the support of other six front-end process equipment, which is as important as a lithography machine.

3/ The most urgent thing for China is to create a lithography machine?

In fact, there is no shortage of lithography machines in China at present. What is lacking is the other six types of process equipment (deposition, etching, ion implantation, cleaning, oxidation, and testing) that are dominated by American manufacturers.

In the future, China’s semiconductor industry will shift from all external circulation to a dual-circulation structure of external circulation + internal circulation. Based on the fact that semiconductors are a deep global division of labor, external circulation, that is, uniting non-American equipment manufacturers, is still a key and realistic choice.

The current front-end equipment pattern is: 1) Photolithography machine: monopolized by European ASML and Japan’s Nikon and Canon; 2) Etching, deposition, ion implantation, cleaning, oxidation, and testing equipment: monopolized by the United States and Japan, of which the testing equipment is from the United States Department of KLA deep monopoly.

Therefore, under the background of China’s semiconductor production expansion, the top priority of the internal and external double cycle is to rely on domestic production and unite with Europe and Japan to replace the non-lithography equipment controlled by the United States. Therefore, unlike what most people understand, there is no shortage of semiconductor manufacturing in China. Lithography.

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