AL 2012 – Day 1

A busy first day, with EUV “progress” and good quotes.


Attendance at this year’s Advanced Lithography Symposium is up 10% this year, to over 1500, though we still haven’t recovered from the huge drop in numbers that accompanied the economic collapse in 2009.  Still, the mood here is good.  When I ask people how they are doing the answer is almost universally the same:  busy.  And busy is what we will all be this week, trying to navigate the seven conferences (six in parallel), 12 short courses, three panel discussions, multiple company-sponsored technical forums and hospitality suites, and of course the numerous side meetings, customer dinners, and hallway encounters that give AL its social dimension and where much of the real work of information transfer occurs.

For me the conference started out with my short course (informally titled “The World According to NILS”).  The students were especially enthusiastic, which always gives me a great energy boost to start the week.  But if I hadn’t been teaching, I’m sure I would have been attending the new short course on directed self-assembly (DSA).  It was by far the most popular course this year.

On Monday the conference began with the Plenary Session.  John Bruning won the Frits Zernike Award for Microlithography, though he wisely chose not to change his vacation plans in the Caribbean with his wife in order to accept the award.  Burn Lin was recognized for his ten years of service as the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS (JM3).  Since I have taken over from Burn as the new editor-in-chief, the well-deserved praise and recognition that he received only made it more obvious how big the shoes are that I must fill.  We also welcomed four new SPIE fellows into our ranks:  Patrick Naulleau, Andy Neureuther, Vivek Singh, and Yu-Cheng Lin.  Congratulations to all of them.

The three plenary talks were all very good.  Jim Clifford, operations VP at Qualcomm, made sure we all understood how much our children (and grandchildren) would be addicted to wireless devices, and how they needed continuation of Moore’s Law to make that happen.  His message was “If you build it, we will come.”  But with a caveat.  The first slide of his talk had only one word:  COST.  Lest we think that Moore’s Law meant anything different, he assured us that it means lowering the cost per function over time.  A more powerful chip that doesn’t have lower cost per function is simply not interesting to Qualcomm.  How much lower?  I asked that question and got a straight answer.  Historically, our industry has achieved 29% reduction in transistor cost each year.  Clifford thought that cost reduction below the “low double digits” would not be worth the investment.  So, Moore’s Law can slow somewhat, maybe even by a factor of two, but if it slows any more than that it will be dead.  Clifford ended the talk by encouraging us lithographers to work hard:  “I want to tell you how important you are to my retirement.”

Grant Willson had a great plenary talk full of poetry and insight.  Chris Progler of Photronics kept us informed and entertained as he inundated us with data and conclusively proved that squares don’t make good Frisbees.

The crowds are always the biggest on the first day, since people have yet to burn out from technical information overload.  I had to watch the first EUV papers in the overflow room.  There I learned about ASML’s progress on getting the throughput up on the NXE:3100 preproduction EUV tool.  Last year, shortly after installing the first 3100 at Samsung, ASML announced that the throughput would be a disappointing 5-6 wafers per hour (the spec was 60).  One year later, ASML showed that the actual throughput was now 4 wafers per hour.  Not exactly the progress we had been hoping for.  Why the backslide?  The quoted “6 wph” was based on a mythical “10 mJ resist” (the throughput numbers for the NXE:3300 will be based on a 15 mJ resist).  Such a resist does not (and I’m sure will not) exist.  The actual 4 wph was based on a “usable dose”, though the results did not produce acceptable linewidth roughness (LWR), so there is some doubt on just how usable that dose really is.

Burn Lin also had a standing room only overflow crowd for his talk on multiple-electron-beam lithography (we are very interested in both EUV and alternates to EUV).  He made the REBL group at KLA-Tencor very happy with the bold proposal that we should make every layer on 450-mm wafer devices using e-beam lithography, and in particular with REBL (reflective electron-beam lithography).  His analysis was good, but made some very important assumptions:  REBL will perform to specification, be delivered on-time, and at the currently estimated price.  If that happens it will be a first for an NGL technology.

I heard some good talks by Moshe Preil and Jim Thackeray, some poor talks by a few others, and the week of technical papers has begun.  Now if I can only finish my talk in time to give it tomorrow…

Monday is always the most quotable day of the symposium.  Here are some of my favorites:

“EUV is like a trip to Disneyland.” – Jim Clifford

“I’ll retire when I expire.” – Grant Willson

“EUVL is needed in 2004 or sooner.” – Peter Silverman of Intel, in a talk from 2000 (as quoted by Grant Willson)

“Nothing fails this year’s technology faster than aiming for last year’s targets.” – Moshe Preil


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