The research agreement covers both the improvement of high-volume production with current systems and the development of future EUV systems using a high numerical aperture (NA) of 0.55. The two companies plan to establish a joint high-NA EUV research lab.
Research with the current NA of 0.33 will be based on the installation of an NXE:3400B, ASML's most advanced and high-volume production EUV scanner in IMEC's cleanroom at its wafer fab in Leuven.
With a 250W light source the NXE:3400B is capable of processing more than 125 wafers an hour, a throughput benchmark in commercial IC production. Other changes may include alignment and leveling sensors, to enable optimal process control and facilitate overlay matching to the immersion scanner NXT:2000i. In commercial fabs EUV lithography is used for critical layers while lower cost immersion scanners are used for the majority of wafer processing making precision alignment a key requirement.
Therefore an NXT:2000i, that will also be installed in imec’s cleanroom in 2019. ASML and IMEC will also expand cooperation on optical metrology and electon-beam metrology.
Systems with a higher NA project the EUV light onto the wafer under larger angles, improving resolution, and enabling printing of smaller features. An EXE:5000 system will be installed in the joint research lab and it will have an NA of 0.55 instead of 0.33 in current NXE:3400 EUV systems. ASML and IMEC will perform research on the manufacturing of nanoscale devices and help other equipment and material suppliers to prepare for the introduction of high-NA EUV technology.
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