The Netherlands’ ASML Holding captured a major customer for its lithography
systems Thursday, with Samsung Electronics signing a global IP licensing
ASML’s technology, which it said “significantly enhances the imaging
performance for current and future technology generations,” will be
deployed at Samsung’s semiconductor facilities worldwide. Samsung will
license the technology through the life of the patents.
ASML’s ASML Masktools subsidiary specializes in lithography, the imaging of
microscopic circuits on silicon to form semiconductors. Samsung has
licensed ASML Masktools’ ‘scattering bar’ technology, a technique
implemented on photomasks to improve the imaging performance on silicon
wafers. ASML said the technology improves depth of focus, enlarges process
latitude, and allows for better critical dimension uniformity and higher
Photomasks are high-purity quartz or glass plates which contain precision
images of integrated circuits (IC). They are used as masters by chipmakers
to optically transfer the images onto semiconductor wafers.
A key benefit of ASML MaskTools’ technology is the larger process window
provided by the scattering bars (subresolution design elements placed by
ASML’s MaskRigger software) on the photomask. The scattering bars act as
“diffraction matching” elements on standard binary photomasks, which allow
for the optimization of the total imaging process without the use of
expensive alternating phase shift masks (which allow chipmakers to print
lines smaller than the wavelength of light).
The technology can be implemented on many layers of the manufacturing flow,
not just the gate layer. The company said this results in tight critical
dimension control on all layers of circuit designs which are pushed to the
limits of manufacturing. ASML said the technology becomes crucial on the
150nm generation and below, as a way to extend the life of the installed
base of 248nm manufacturing equipment.
“Scattering bar technology is fast gaining mainstream status for chip
manufacturing, evidenced by the growing number of companies adopting it,”
said Dinesh Bettadapur, president and CEO of ASML MaskTools.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.