Paul van Gerven
15 February

As the roll-out of high-NA EUV lithography has started, a potential successor is still on ASML’s radar. “Hyper-NA with an NA higher than 0.7 is certainly an opportunity that will become more visible from around 2030,” CTO Martin van den Brink states in ASML’s 2023 annual report. “It’s likely to be most relevant for logic – and it will need to be more affordable than double patterning – but it may also be an opportunity for DRAM.”

An ASML spokesperson told Bits&Chips that the technological and economic viability of hyper-NA technology is being investigated, but no decision has been made to go ahead with it. He declined to comment on when that decision will be made. Considering the 2030 time frame mentioned by Van den Brink and the years of preparation needed to develop a new generation of EUV scanners, it’s not unreasonable to expect a commitment sooner rather than later. High-NA got the green light in 2015, well before low-NA EUV was introduced into high-volume manufacturing.

By 2030, chipmakers may require high-NA double patterning, at least for a select number of layers. At the same time, dimensional scaling is predicted to continue until at least 2036, per the roadmap proposed by Imec last year. This underlines the potential opportunity for another generation of EUV scanners, provided cost targets can be met.

ASML Martin van den Brink NB
If ASML decides to take on hyper-NA, Martin van den Brink won’t supervise its development – he’ll step down in April.

Back in 2022, Van den Brink expressed doubt about the economic viability of hyper-NA. “If the cost of hyper-NA grows as fast as we’ve seen with high-NA, it will pretty much be economically unfeasible,” he told Bits&Chips, adding that his company was exploring solutions to keep the technology manageable in terms of cost and manufacturability. At the 2022 ASML Investor Day, Van den Brink proved optimistic that his engineers will succeed. “I always believe in technology, so I’ll believe we’ll get there.”

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In April 2023, Van den Brink’s confidence in the hyper-NA business case had grown even more. “I’ve traveled several times around the world talking to customers about the need and desirability of hyper-NA. In recent months, I’ve gained the confidence and insight that customers want to drive the resolution down so much further that the opportunity for using hyper-NA for mass production of logic and memory chips is there,” he told Dutch tech website Tweakers (link in Dutch).