As the debate over the validity of Moore’s Law continues on, The Elec conducted an emailed interview with Ron Kool, the executive vice president of leading semiconductor equipment supplier ASML. Kool will issue a key note at this year’s ASML Tech Talk to be held in Songdo on Aug. 23.
The following are the excerpts of the interview.
Q. What are the highlights of your key note address at the 2019 ASML Tech Talk?
A. I will deliver updates on ASML technology and semiconductor market. From last ASML Korea tech talk event, we made some technical progress, so I will share it to Korean audience. I also want to use this opportunity to expand people’s awareness and understanding of photolithography and ASML. I hope my speech delivers some key insights to audience on what ASML is working on. ASML is not only a lithography machine maker but also a solution provider for lithography process including modeling and metrology solutions. Korea market is one of the most important markets for ASML and I believe there are many collaboration opportunities in lithography fields with Korean universities and professors.
Q. Some experts say Moore’s Law is no longer valid. Do you agree?
A. As scaling continues, semiconductor industry requires more complex technologies to achieve it. Moore’s Law is an ASML’s guiding principle and I believe its continuation. In order to reach advanced technologies and overcome its limitations, many semiconductor players including ASML are pushing technical boundaries to achieve it. Just like ASML has taken its responsibility to develop EUV to enable that scaling continues, the industry will keep working for its continuation. And more and more we realize that Moore’s law is not just about technology, it also has to make sense from an economical point of view. In other words: the cost side and the value of high productivity equipment is getting more and more attention.
Q. EUV is being applied for high-volume manufacturing at global semiconductor companies, and shipments have already begun. Given the amount of contribution ASML has made in enhancing and expanding EUV equipment, how significant is this phenomenon?
A. Our customers – Samsung and TSMC — have started to produce 7nm chips with EUV process. It is a meaningful moment for ASML, since we started R&D process from early 2000s. Our first EUV alpha tool was built in 2006 and it took more than a decade to see EUV in high volume manufacturing. 2019 is a meaningful year for ASML to see our EUV efforts are finally paid off and our customers are able to use our NXE systems for their production. ASML has worked hard to achieve EUV source power and productivity level to match customer expectations. ASML currently provides a mix and match solution with EUV and Immersion systems and this enables scaling.
Q. As you mentioned, the ratio of R&D in ASML’s revenues is quite high. What is your know-how in maximizing the R&D effect?
A. ASML focuses on sustaining technology leadership and our technology. We are high on R&D, spending up to 1.5 billion euros per year. We also recruit top talents from globe and we have great people in our teams. ASML closely works with many different partners in an open innovation platform from design to manufacturing. We collaborate with strategic partners with mutual transparency that ensures shared risks and rewards. We develop and build technology in a vast ecosystem with our customer, supplier, academia, technology providers and research institutes. Partnering and working together is essential to overcome the technology challenges.
Q. In areas such as pellicles, photoresist and actinic technology, we can see that we to do more to complete the EUV eco-system. What kind of efforts are ASML making in this area?
A. I heard actinic mask inspection tool was delayed, but I heard the tools would be delivered to our customers this year. On EUV Pellicle, ASML took the initiative in a partnership with Teledyne to develop new Pellicle with a better transmittance. For mass production on EUV pellicle, ASML and Mitsui have a license contract on manufacturing.
Q. Engineers say with all technologies, it’s always just a matter of time before the next step. What are some of the obstacles that stand in the way of further technological advancement in the field of semiconductor equipment?
A. The current semiconductor industry is very complex and it is impossible for a single player to make the progress needed. It is critical for all players to work together to make progress. ASML believes in open innovation. It means we need to work together with our customer, peers and suppliers. We grow together in this industry and we need to collaborate to overcome technical boundaries.
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