G. Dan Hutcheson: Moore's Law, Lithography, and How Optics Drive the Semiconductor Industry

A plenary talk from SPIE Advanced Lithography 2018.

08 March 2018

G. Dan Hutcheson, CEO and Chairman  VLSI Research Inc. (USA)

"Moore's Law is inextricably tied to optics," says Dan Hutcheson of VLSIresearch Inc. "If you can't image it, you cant' etch it. If can't etch it, you can't make it. Optics is the nail that keeps the kingdom of semiconductors in place."

He notes that Moore's Law is about increasing density -- making transistors smaller -- and this can only be done with optics.

When the subject of Moore's Law arises, the important role that lithography plays and how advances in optics have made it all possible, is seldom brought up the world outside of lithography itself.

When lithography is mentioned up in the value chain, it's often a critique of how the advances are coming too slow and are getting far too expensive. Yet advances in lithography are at the core of how Moore's Law is viable.

Hutcheson AL18 plenary_demand for transistors

In this plenary presentation, Hutcheson lays out how technology and the economics of optics in manufacturing interleave to drive the immense value that semiconductors have brought to the world by making it smarter. Continuing these advances will be critical as electronics make the move from smart to cognitive.

So how is it possible that the history of lithography is one where the price of a single tool has soared from 10 cents to today's $100M+ EUV behemoths and yet the business still thrives? There are fundamental economic engines underlying this that make the rising cost of lithography affordable given that there are technical advances in optics.

The bottom line is that the advances in optics and its allies have really been critical to the economic health of the semiconductor industry, says Hutcheson. Moore's Law is alive and well in terms of increasing areal transistor density and decreasing price-per-transistor, and this is largely due to lithography. Tool prices are not the problem and lithography is the solution.

Hutcheson AL18 plenary_it won't be easy

"All we have to do is continue to drive that cost-per-pixel down, and increase device performance and power," says Hutcheson. "As long as we improve that metric, we do well -- and it starts with the lithography tools."

That doesn't mean it's going to be easy, he adds, but it's never been easy.

Dan Hutcheson is CEO and Chairman of VLSIresearch Inc. He is a recognized authority on the semiconductor industry, winning SEMI's Sales and Marketing Excellence Award in 2012 for "empowering executives with tremendous strategic and tactical marketing value" through his e-letter, The Chip Insider®; his book Maxims of Hi-Tech, and his many interviews of executives. He is thought of as "the marketing voice and expert for the industry."

His consulting work includes hundreds of successful programs involving product development, launch, and positioning. Dan has a proven track record of developing economic models that accurately predict trends. He is widely known for forecasting strategic infrastructure shifts.

Hutcheson holds a Master's degree in economics from San Jose State University. He is a senior member of the IEEE.

Related SPIE cintent:

Lithography continues to drive Moore's law
The semiconductor industry relies on perpetual miniaturization, and for this to continue requires a holistic approach to the entire lithography process and a move to extreme UV lithography.

Video: Chris Mack on next-generation lithography and the future of Moore's Law
The "litho guru" talks about engineering challenges facing the various approaches to advancing Moore's Law, and the three requirements for success.

Vivek Singh: The research pipeline in the lithography industry
Advancing Moore's Law depends on an ongoing R&D process that continues regardless of economic ups and downs.

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