The Week In Review: Manufacturing

Litho share at Intel; EUV mask inspection; Applied-TEL update; DRAM wars.

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At the SPIE Advanced Lithography conference in San Jose, Calif., there were several takeaways. First, the battle for lithography share is heating up at Intel. “We believe Nikon still holds a decent position at Intel, but with ASML gaining some share at 10nm. Nikon could regain some share with its new platform at 7nm, in our view, but it is early to tell. We believe Nikon has improved its position with Micron, with one immersion tool qualified for 1xnm and a couple more likely on the way. This is a small but new customer for Nikon, and any traction is a positive,” said Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a report.

At one time, the industry claimed it did not need an actinic wavelength inspection tool for EUV masks. Now, the industry is singing a different tune. “At the KLA-Tencor Lithography Users Forum, Dr. Mark Phillips from Intel presented what, at first, appeared to be a largely uncontroversial report regarding metrology challenges. However, things took an interesting turn as Dr. Phillips shifted to his EUV program. He made the case that the only workable solution for inspecting EUV masks is to develop an EUV-based (actinic wavelength) EUV mask inspection tool,” Twigg said.

Metrology is also a key technology. “Just as ASML dominates the lithography segment, KLA-Tencor is dominating the discussion when it comes to solving upcoming process control challenges. The company rolled out its ‘5D’ process control concept; the five dimensions represent the three physical dimensions, plus time and efficiency. What the concept represents is the idea of tying a number of fab measurements together to better apply feed-forward and feed-back information to process equipment to improve process windows. This is a more holistic approach to process control, similar to ASML’s approach to lithography, but broader,” Twigg said.

What’s new with Applied Materials’ proposed acquisition of Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TEL)? The merger deadline has been extended from March 24, 2015 to June 30, 2015, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

Applied Materials rolled out an in-line CD SEM metrology tool. The tool, dubbed the VeritySEM 5i, is designed for use in measuring high-aspect ratio and complex features of 3D NAND and finFETs.

At SPIE, the eBeam Initiative event featured several presentations, including Aki Fujimura from D2S, Takayuki Nakamura of Advantest and Chris Progler of Photronics.

Shares of Micron fell on reports that Samsung has reached a deal with Apple and LG Electronics to supply DRAMs for the companies’ new smartphones.

Samsung Electronics is mass producing the industry’s first 128-gigabyte (GB) ultra-fast embedded memory based on the Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 standard for next-generation smartphones. UFS memory utilizes “Command Queue,” a technology that accelerates the speed of command execution in SSDs through a serial interface, increasing data processing speeds compared to the 8-bit parallel-interface-based eMMC standard.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted a book-to-bill ratio of 1.03 in January, according to SEMI. This compares to 0.99 in December.

Aixtron posted its results. Like its rival Veeco, Aixtron had a tough quarter.

Canon rolled out a nanoimprint lithography tool for sub-20nm processes.

Avago will acquire Emulex in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $606 million, or $609 million net of cash and debt acquired.