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Laser pulse rates illuminate technology ramp, even if they don’t want you to know.

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By Katherine Derbyshire

It’s hard to tell when the semiconductor industry actually changes over from one technology node to the next. Process technology is among the most closely guarded of fab secrets, and things like product sales numbers aren’t far behind.

There are indirect measures, though. For example, the same device with a smaller feature size will have a smaller die size, and therefore a larger number of dice per wafer. Lithographic exposure parameters change to accommodate the more demanding exposure requirements.

From data like these Gigaphoton is able to estimate how the pulses produced by the company’s ArF lasers are distributed among technology nodes. Once a new technology enters production, its share of total pulses climbs rapidly at first, then more slowly as new devices and additional layers migrate over. As the figure shows, a little over two years separated the 45nm and 32 nm nodes, at least among Gigaphoton customers.

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Figure: Megapulses per day per laser, by technology node. Image courtesy of Gigaphoton.