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    Paradigms and Economics of Maskless Lithography

      G. Dan Hutcheson

    Next Generation Lithography has been knocking on the door of chip manufacturing since the sixties. But, just as the door has cracked opened at each new node, Optical Lithography has slammed it shut. Two technologies, x-ray and e-beam, have the oldest history of being princes waiting for the king’s death. While e-beam has proven successful for applications involving very low volumes and prototyping, its dominant application has been for mask writing. Nevertheless, E-beam has always intrigued many because it eliminates the need for masks. Its economics are fundamentally different and are favored when mask costs are high. Throughout most of the industry’s history, mask costs have not been a major contributing factor to the economics of lithography. So, this advantage was lost on most of the industry. However, when the chip industry moved into the deep-sub-micron era in the late nineties, the cost of masks started to skyrocket. At the same time, product lifetimes became alarmingly small as companies used ever shorter times-to-market to rapidly rev product designs. So, as we move into the next millennium does this new environment make maskless lithography viable? This paper answers this question by dusting off an old model of e-beam economics that the author wrote in the eighties and revising it to today’s latest technologies. It compares the economic viability of modern e-beam technology against projected optical and NGL capability in the next century. It also examines the practical and cultural barriers to e-beam getting through the front door of the wafer fab, while taking a brief walk through the history of NGL. — Originally presented at the IEEE Lithography Workshop, August 23-27, 1999 in Anchorage, Alaska

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    Domain: Electronics
    Category: Semiconductors