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EUV adoption has reached inflection point, ASML says

The semiconductor equipment provider ASML has received eight additional orders for EUV machines in Q2 2017, which the company says shows that the adoption for high-volume EUV manufacturing has reached an inflection point.

ASML's EUV backlog has grown to 27 systems valued at €2.8 billion. The company expects around 25 per cent growth in sales in 2017, driven, it says, by industry strength and EUV demand. It posted net sales of €2.1 billion in the second quarter of 2017, and predicts that to grow to €2.2 billion in Q3 2017.

ASML president and CEO, Peter Wennink, said that sales to memory customers is expected to grow about 50 per cent from last year, especially driven by DRAM, and sales to logic customers is expected to grow about 15 per cent. He added that the €2.8 billion EUV backlog indicates ‘that preparation for high-volume manufacturing is well underway in both logic and DRAM’.

‘Our current view is that the positive business trends that we are seeing in 2017 are likely to continue as we enter 2018,’ Wennink added.

There has been a huge amount of investment in Extreme UV technology, which promises to be the next generation of lithography systems that enable smaller patterns to be printed on semiconductor chips. To date though, advances in existing deep UV processing technology, along with limitations in wafer throughput for EUV machines, has slowed the uptake of EUV to a certain extent. However, demand for EUV technology from the semiconductor industry seems to be growing.

ASML has integrated an upgraded EUV source into its Twinscan NXE:3400B lithography system in its Veldhoven facility, and achieved the throughput specification of 125 wafers per hour on this system. Now, with all key performance specifications demonstrated, the company stated, the focus is on achieving the availability that is required for high-volume manufacturing, as well as further improving productivity.

In the second quarter of 2017, ASML also completed the €1 billion acquisition of a 24.9 per cent interest in Carl Zeiss SMT, to facilitate the development of the future generation of EUV lithography. Carl Zeiss SMT makes the optical system for the EUV machines.

Trumpf and other photonics companies are supplying equipment to ASML for its EUV machines; Trumpf has invested in multi-kilowatt CO2 laser systems for EUV for the last 10 years or more.

For the third-quarter of 2017, ASML expects net sales around €2.2 billion, which includes approximately €300 million EUV revenue, a gross margin around 43 per cent, R&D costs of about €315 million, other income of about €24 million.

The company also expects three NXE:3400B EUV machine shipments in the third-quarter of 2017.

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