Analysis

After litho, ASML targets chip metrology market

René Raaijmakers
Leestijd: 5 minuten

Data is increasingly influencing ASML’s activities. Digital technologies are now essential to keep wafer fabs humming with profitable yields, but for ASML, the underlying knowledge and instruments also translate into growing business opportunities.

ASML is a seasoned hardware company – built on physics, built by physicists. Litho equipment is still the major moneymaker, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of its revenue. But in the past twenty years, the company has been very diligently adding computational technology and measuring systems to support its steppers and scanners. Data and software are now heavily impacting ASML’s research and development. It might be gushy to state that without metrology, data, number crunching and correction loops, the newest litho technology can’t produce a single die. It’s certainly fair to say that without it, chip manufacturers can’t achieve the yields that are needed for a profitable semiconductor business.

It all started in 1999 with the acquisition of Masktools, a company of only ten employees that worked on technology for mask optimization. The latest gain in this hunt is Hermes Microvision (HMI), at the time of the 2.75-billion-euro acquisition in 2016 a 350-employee Taiwanese supplier of e-beam pattern verification systems (link in Dutch). According to ASML, HMI has now doubled its headcount – also thanks to the takeover of the experts from the Dutch e-beam litho company Mapper, which went broke late 2018 (link in Dutch).

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