Dutch chip equipment maker ASML on Tuesday unveiled a new machine that will enable chip makers to make 30 percent thinner electronic circuits, which it hailed as the biggest improvement in years.
The new machine was announced at the Semicon West trade show in San Francisco where ASML's Executive Vice President Marketing and Technology Martin van den Brink said it will be ready for delivery to multiple customers in the second quarter of 2006.
"We say we have achieved a 30 percent improvement. hat's a jump we haven't seen in many years, Van den Brink said.
The launch, of which Reuters already reported several details on Friday, heats up the race with main rival Nikon from Japan which is close to shipping a hyper NA machine.
In normal situations, the maximum value of numerical aperture is 1.0. By putting a water-like liquid between the lens and the wafer, ASML has increased that value to 1.2 -- bigger than the 1.07 NA from Nikon's machines.
A high NA allows the machine to project more focused, and therefore smaller electronics features on the wafer while using an otherwise identical chip lithography machine with the same light source.
Important is that the new ASML machine can be used for normal, high-volume production.
"This is a normal Twinscan machine. It is as fast and reliable as existing models, but it can make much smaller features which is important for competitive producers such as memory chip makers," Van den Brink said in a telephone interview.
Smaller features and thinner circuits allow semiconductor makers to make fit more chips on one silicon wafer, which increases productivity and enables ongoing price cuts.
The higher productivity will come at a price, however, as ASML may charge as much as 30 million euros per machine, the price of a commercial aircraft.
ASML had already produced several so-called immersion machines that use water, but these still had NA values of below 1 and were mainly used for test purposes.
It has shipped seven of those machines so far, and will ship several more in the second half of 2005 to customers who want to get acquainted with this technology for the next few years, Van den Brink said... (Continued Here) Source