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Can 5nm chips be made without EUV lithography machine? Kioxia joins hands with NDP and Jiali to push NIL technology



  After semiconductor process technology enters the 5nm node, EUV lithography machine has become an indispensable key equipment. However, due to the high cost of EUV lithography machines, the price per unit exceeds 100 million US dollars, and the EUV lithography machine is only produced by ASML in the Netherlands, and its production capacity is limited, which makes the production cost of the chip significantly increased. In order to solve this problem, Japanese storage manufacturer Kioxia has now teamed up with its partners to develop a new NIL process technology that can advance the process technology to 5nm without using EUV lithography machines.

  According to Japanese media reports, Kioxia has been cooperating with semiconductor equipment manufacturer Canon and photomasks and other semiconductor component manufacturers Dainippon Printing Co., Ltd. (DNP) in 2017 to develop nano-pressure products at the Kioxia factory in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Mass production technology of NIL. At present, Kioxia has mastered the 15nm process mass production technology, and is currently conducting research and development of technologies below 15nm, which is expected to be further achieved in 2025.

  Compared with the EUV lithography technology that has been commercialized, Kioxia said that NIL technology can significantly reduce energy consumption and reduce equipment costs. The reason is that the lithography process of the NIL technology is relatively simple, the power consumption can be reduced to 10% of the EUV technology, and the equipment investment is reduced to only 40% of the EUV equipment. At present, EUV lithography machine is only produced and supplied by ASML in the Netherlands, which is not only expensive, but also requires the cooperation of many testing equipment.

  However, although NIL technology has many advantages, there are still many problems to be solved in the introduction of mass production at this stage, including defects that are more likely to be formed due to the influence of fine dust in the air.

  The report pointed out that for Kioxia, NAND components are easier to adapt to the NIL technology process because of the 3D stacked structure. Kioxia also stated that it has solved the basic technical problems of NIL and is in the process of advancing mass production technology, hoping to introduce it into NAND production first compared to other competitors. Once Kioxia can successfully introduce NIL technology and achieve mass production, it is expected to make up for the unfavorable situation in the equipment investment competition and meet the needs of reducing carbon emissions.

  According to DNP, NIL mass production technology circuits can be scaled down to the 5nm node, and DNP has been conducting internal simulations based on the device specifications since the spring of 2021. Regarding such technological progress, DNP also revealed that the increase in inquiries from semiconductor manufacturers on NIL mass production technology shows that many manufacturers have high hopes for NIL technology.

  Another partner, Canon, is also committed to widely applying NIL mass production technology to devices that make logic chips such as DRAM and CPUs for PCs, so that semiconductor manufacturers with a large supply in the future hope to be applied to mobile phone applications in the future. On the most advanced manufacturing processes such as processors.

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