Technology Used in Semiconductor Lithography Equipment

Semiconductors have come to play a vital role in our everyday lives. Semiconductor chips are incorporated into smartphones, personal computers, digital cameras, and other everyday necessities that we rely on. As we enter the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), and all kinds of objects are now connected to the Internet. Semiconductor chips are being used in the sensors and communication devices of such things as cars and home appliances as well as processors for artificial intelligence (AI) systems used for big data analysis. As a result, they are more essential to society than ever, and demand for them continues to increase.

2018/12/27Featured Technology

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Semiconductor Chips and End Products that Use Them


The Manufacturing Process for Semiconductor Chips

(1) The circuit pattern is transferred onto the wafer

The reticle is exposed to light in order to transfer the circuit pattern onto the wafer.By focusing the light using a reduction lens, even finer patterns of circuitry can be transferred.
The narrower the lines in the circuit pattern, the greater the number of semiconductor elements that can be transferred, and therefore the higher the performance and functionality of the chip.

By focusing the light using a reduction lens, even finer patterns of circuitry can be transferred.
The narrower the lines in the circuit pattern, the greater the number of semiconductor elements that can be transferred, and therefore the higher the performance and functionality of the chip.

The Light Exposure Process

The resist undergoes change when exposed to light, and the exposed portions are removed using a developing solution.

(2) Removal of unnecessary portions

The sections of the oxide film that are not covered with resist react with a gas and are eliminated.

(3) Formation of the semiconductor elements

After excess resist has been removed, impurities that increase the transistor efficiency are injected into the exposed wafer to create semiconductor elements.

(4) Covering with an Insulating Film and Flattening of the Surface

After the entire wafer is covered with an insulating film, the surface is flattened out. Then, the next layer is overlaid and more resist is applied to prepare for circuit pattern exposure.

What Is Semiconductor Lithography Equipment?

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Semiconductor lithography equipment is used in the exposure phase of the semiconductor-chip manufacturing process. Semiconductor chips are created by exposing fine circuit patterns onto semiconductor substrates called wafers. Semiconductor lithography equipment uses a projection lens to reduce the circuit pattern, which is written on an original plate called a reticle, and expose the pattern onto a wafer. Each wafer is sequentially moved by using a wafer stage, and the wafer is repeatedly exposed to the circuit patterns. Because a circuit is created by overlaying many layers of ultra-fine patterns at nanometer-level* precision, semiconductor lithography equipment must utilize ultra-high-precision technology to achieve accurate performance on this scale.

  • * nanometer
    One-billionth of a meter


Overview of Semiconductor Lithography Equipment

Three Major Performances of Lithography Equipment

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Three main parameters are used as performance indicators for semiconductor lithography equipment.

1. Resolution
Determines how fine the circuit patterns transferred to a wafer (via exposure) can be.

2. Overlay accuracy
Each wafer is exposed numerous times. Overlay accuracy indicates how precisely the wafer and reticle circuit pattern can be overlaid after the wafer is moved.

3. Throughput
Describes how quickly circuit patterns can be exposed. This is an important factor when mass producing semiconductor chips.

Design, Manufacturing, and Control Technologies for Projection Lenses with Higher Resolution

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Extreme Aberration Control that Achieves the Theoretical Limit of Resolution

Semiconductor chips are manufactured via reduction imaging exposure of a circuit pattern of an original plate (reticle) onto wafers. Circuit density can be improved by increasing the resolution of the projection lens and miniaturizing the circuit pattern.
Lithography equipment incorporates such ultraviolet light sources as mercury lamps or excimer lasers alongside a high-numerical aperture projection lens. Canon uses advanced optical design technology, lens-polishing technology with nm-level precision, and ultra-high-precision optical system mechanism design, assembly, and adjustment technology to manufacture projection lenses that reach the theoretical limit of resolution. In addition, Canon's lithography equipment incorporates a high-precision lens driving mechanism to correct for aberration caused by minor environmental changes during exposure, including atmospheric pressure and temperature.

High-Acceleration, High-Speed Stage Control Technology that Improves Overlay Precision and Throughput

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Realizing High Precision and Productivity Through High-Precision Control Technology Offering the World's Highest Stage Acceleration1

In addition to chip shrink technology, semiconductor lithography technology also relies on key technologies including stage high-acceleration technology and synchronization control technology. Being able to drive the stage at high speed and accurately position it enables increased productivity and higher yield rates that make possible the mass-production of high-performance semiconductor products.
With step and scan exposure system2, the wafer stage and reticle stage are continuously moved in sync during wafer exposure. Utilizing extremely precise synchronization control technology, a sub-nm level of precision can be achieved. In addition, the use of such technologies as a special linear motor and a lightweight, highly stiff stage enables repeated acceleration and deceleration of the reticle stage at acceleration of 12 Gs or more (1/4 that for the wafer stage), contributing to increased productivity.

  • *1 the World's Highest Stage Acceleration
    As of August 2018. Based on Canon research.
  • *2 With step and scan exposure system
    This system enables higher precision than the stepper system dose in which the wafer and reticle are fixed during exposure.


Synchronizing the Movements of the Reticle Stage and Wafer Stage During Exposure

Supporting Stable Operation Through Big Data Analysis Technology

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An AI System that Pushes Lithography Equipment Performance to the Limit

To achieve high productivity and exposure accuracy for semiconductor lithography equipment, it is important to maximize and maintain the performance of hardware.
To ensure that the diagnosis system implemented in Canon's semiconductor lithography equipment can accurately detect various events and status changes, Canon uses high-speed data transfer technology that complies with EDA standards* as well as big data analysis technology that utilizes deep learning and other machine learning algorithms. By quickly collecting and analyzing data on such aspects as lithography equipment, wafer measurement equipment, and peripheral equipment operation, this system can identify changes in equipment status that are difficult for humans to observe, detect abnormalities, and perform prediction and maintenance to achieve stable equipment operation.

  • *EDA
    Equipment Data Acquisition. Semiconductor-manufacturing-equipment standards (SEMI standards) related to data collection.

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