SAN JOSE, Calif. – Chip executives are increasingly optimistic the industry will adopt extreme ultraviolet lithography and multibeam mask writers, according to a pair of surveys announced today. The new systems will help drive advances at a time when it’s becoming increasingly complex and expensive to make leading-edge devices.

Seventy-five percent of a survey of 75 semiconductor luminaries said they expect EUV will be adopted in high volume manufacturing before 2021. Only 1 percent said EUV will never be embraced, down from 6 percent last year and a whopping 35 percent in 2014.

“There’s no question in my mind,” EUV will be adopted starting with 7nm+ processes in the next few years, said Aki Fujimura, an industry veteran and spokesman for the eBeam Initiative, a trade group that conducted the survey over the summer.

Intel, Samsung and TSMC made multi-billion-dollar investments in EUV developer ASML which in turn bought light-source maker Cymer, driving the complex and expensive technology forward. “Over the last couple years, the problem got bad enough with 7 and 5nm that everyone finally said we got to make this work or the entire industry’s in trouble,” said Fujimura, who is chief executive of D2S, a maker of systems that use GPUs to accelerate mask defect repair.

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A group of 75 influential chip executives expressed rising hopes for EUV. Click to enlarge. (Images: eBeam Initiative)

The shift won’t be easy. Chip makers are expected to launch 7nm processes with existing immersion steppers, then migrate some steps to EUV later to reduce the need for multi-patterning.

 “EUV is so novel and requires so much investment in the machine and ecosystem to support it that you can’t have a stepwise introduction. You have to introduce it more gradually than that …[and not] ask EUV to do its best right off the bat,” said Fujimura who is on his third startup after a career in EDA that started in 1979 and included two tours at Cadence Design Systems.

Over the past 12 months, mask makers created 1,041 EUV masks, up from 382 a year ago. EUV mask yields were only 64.3 percent, compared to 94.8 percent for all 462,792 masks exposed in the period, according to a separate survey of ten top mask makers.

“I attribute [the low figure] to startup yields…One might say it’s surprising it’s as high as 64.3 percent,” he said.

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