A long-running issue in photomask inspection and more so in relation to EUV technology is the lack of development or existence of the required tools, due to the limited expected market and ROI for the equipment vendor. However, SEMATECH and Carl Zeiss are to now design and develop the industry’s first-ever actinic aerial image metrology system ‘AIMS’ for defect review of EUV photomasks.
SEMATECH began pursuing a consortial solution for the required metrology infrastructure with a special workshop at SEMICON West in July 2009, continuing with working groups to develop proposals and efforts to sign up initial members.
A first production-worthy version of the platform is scheduled for early 2014, in line with the expected introduction of EUV lithography into high-volume manufacturing by 2015, supporting 22 nm half-pitch (HP) node requirements with extendibility to the 16 nm HP node. It has long been expected that Zeiss would play its part in the development process once a business case could be made.
“Major industry transitions such as the introduction of EUV lithography require collaborative innovations that involve coordination across the supply chain,” said Dan Armbrust, president and CEO of SEMATECH. “This agreement represents a significant achievement for SEMATECH’s EMI consortium, and illustrates our continuing commitment to develop and deliver the infrastructure required for this critical next-generation technology.”
“The development of production-worthy metrology solutions is critical to accelerating EUVL and represents another significant step toward readiness for commercialization of EUV for high-volume-manufacturing,” said John Warlaumont, vice president of Advanced Technologies, SEMATECH. “Carl Zeiss has been a valued partner of SEMATECH for many years, given their leadership in providing state-of-the-art tool components and system solutions that are manufacturing friendly. We are very pleased to partner with Carl Zeiss on driving the development of a high-resolution EUV defect review tool that will collectively support the needs of the semiconductor industry and EUV stakeholders.”
Since 2003, the semiconductor industry has ranked defect-free EUV masks among its top three technical issues, and SEMATECH has led technical programs to drive defect reduction.