SPIE member Ken Rygler, president of Rygler & Associates and founder of DuPont Photomasks, reflects on 25 years in the photomask industry and ponders the future of lithography in a guest editorial in the October issue of the BACUS newsletter.
“What have we learned and will those lessons help us with today’s challenges?” Rygler asks. “First, everything (except maybe us) lives far longer than most everyone expects.”
"I recently won a wager made 5 years ago with a technologist far more knowledgeable than I, regarding what lithography technology will be used at 22nm," Rygler says. "He took EUV; I took optical."
Even though EUV looks promising as a 22nm technology, “Don’t bet against optical,” he advises.
“Despite the industry’s fast pace, semiconductor engineers are incredibly resistant to change,” Rygler says, “and I have seen numerous examples of new products and technologies with seemingly compelling economic or technical arguments fail to unseat an incumbent.
“Incumbency and adequacy are powerful competitors, and you can lose a lot of money finding that out for yourselves.”
Rygler, who has spent 40 years in the "micro-electronics food chain," also discusses a second lesson learned from the photolithography industry, which he calls "nice from far but far from nice."
"We've seen so many 'shiny new pennies' come down the lithography road," he says. "Each would typically bring with it a fresh set of acronyms and the promise of enabling scaling the seemingly impenetrable optical lithography wall at __ nanometer (readers: feel free to fill in a number). Whether hard X-ray, IPL, EBDW (aka maskless), SCALPEL, soft x-ray (aka EUV), etc., none have supplanted optical.
"Today, it's DSA, lithography in a bottle. As we got closer to each of these, a unique set of problems emerged and, at the end of the day, engineers would always prefer to deal with the devil they know."
The monthly BACUS newsletter is published jointly by SPIE and BACUS, a technical group of SPIE involved with masks for microlithography. Read more at: spie.org/bacus
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