Earlier in 2022, Intel Corporation’s Fab 34 in Ireland took delivery of its first EUV lithography system, a key enabler of Intel 4 process technology. Particularly, the system, made by Dutch manufacturer ASML, possesses the most complicated piece of machinery humans have ever built.
Since then, local teams have been working through the installation phase and this week reached an important moment as the EUV scanner generated its 13.5 nanometer wavelength light for the first time in Ireland.
This represents key milestone on the path towards high volume production of Intel 4 technology. In addition, this is also the first time to employ a high volume EUV scanner in Europe.
The EUV system consists of 100,000 parts, 3,000 cables, 40,000 bolts and more than a mile of hosing. For that reason, it took 18 months of design and construction activity to prepare the Fab 34 building to receive the machine.
Following its arrival in Leixlip, the journey to generating first light has been an incredibly complex one that relied upon the intricate alignment of multiple factors. From the build of the scanner itself to the qualification of facility systems and the connection to utilities, it has taken a huge, combined team effort to reach this point.
Generating First Light
In the lithography process, patterns transferred to a silicon wafer, creating the blueprints for Intel’s integrated circuits. While lithography scanners have been an integral part of making microchips for many years, EUV scanners can print circuitry smaller and more precisely than anything that has come before.
The systems to support the EUV scanner begin at the utility, or basement, level of the fab. Primarily, these are the locations where the vacuum pumps create the vacuum environment and RF control cabinets for power inputs to the laser.
In the Subfab, located directly below the cleanroom, comes the powerful 25KW laser that generates light fired at 50,000 times per second as well as a suite of control and purification cabinets. This laser light travels up through a beam transport system to the EUV tool located in the main fab cleanroom.
Inside the tool, the laser fire and strike twice the molten tin droplets. The first low power strike turns the tin droplet into a pancake shape. The second high energy strike creates the EUV plasma to form the 13.5nm light reflected through mirrors to pick up the design template – called a reticle. Thereafter, patterning it to the silicon wafer.
Intel 4 Process Technology
This milestone has been many years in the making. Furthermore, Intel considers the planning, preparation and precision required to deliver EUV lithography in high volume production as an unparalleled. The arrival of this important moment ushers the way for Intel 4 technology, which has achieved its key milestone of manufacturing readiness by 2H 2022 for products such as Meteor Lake in 2023. Intel’s unique process innovations and approach to EUV with the Intel 4 process keep Intel on track to deliver five nodes in four years and meet its commitment to regain process leadership by 2025.
Over 100 ASML staff are supporting the build and set up of the system together with teams of trade contractors, Intel Engineers and Technicians.
In addition, several people from the local Intel team have spent time on seed assignment at Intel’s technology development fab in Oregon to ensure Fab 34 was ready for this technology.