Are Litho Tools too Expensive?

Are Litho Tools too Expensive?

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Author: Dan Hutcheson (Fellow) | Visits: 1368 | Page Views: 1414
Domain:  High Tech Category: Semiconductors Subcategory: Lithography 
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Maxims of Tech: Rules of Engagement for a Fast Changing Environment
Litho Tool Costs Out of Hand?
G. Dan Hutcheson No, lithography tool prices are not out of hand. As long as the price per pixel tracks Moore's Law, there is no affordability problem with lithography. You can see this by amortizing lithography system prices; calculating the increasing number of pixels with each generation, which drives the number of transistors per given area; then calculate the throughput in pixels; and use all this data to arrive at cost per pixel, you will find that the latter tracks Moore's Law quite nicely. Here, I'll save you the trouble:

Why Lithography Tool Costs Are Not Out of Hand
1.E+10 1.E+09 1.E+08 1.E+07 1.E+06 1.E+05 1.E+04 1.E+03 1.E+02 1.E+01 1.E+00 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Litho Tool Cost Per Pixel (Femto-$) Avg Price Per Transistor (Nano-$) Litho Tool Prices ($)

Lithography tool cost per pixel uses a five year amortization.
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Copyright � 2007 by VLSI Research Inc. All rights reserved.

As you can see, litho tool prices are not usury. In reality, lithography suppliers have only been able to recoup the value they have provided to the chip making industry. If tool prices were out of hand, they would be driving the price per transistor up and ending Moore's Law, because they are such a large component of costs. The bigger issue to worry about is the rise in material prices, as this effects areal costs. The other problem with material costs is that they sneak up on you. Spending billions on equipment takes board level approval. Just about everybody gets involved. Material purchases are approved at far lower levels. Worse, in many cases, source materials are dominated by pure monopolies. This is a great example of how PICOS purchasing tactics have backfired.

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