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Cymer’s EUV power source roadmap slips

Amid record sales for the fourth quarter, Cymer disclosed that it has delayed the shipment of its 20 Watt extreme ultraviolet (EUV) power source upgrade unit by nearly a quarter.The company also remains under pressure to deliver a separate 100 Watt power source for EUV by mid-year. The main EUV tool vendor - ASML - expects to ship its NXE:3300B, a full-blown, 13.5nm EUV production tool, in the second half of 2012. Cymer is one of the EUV power source vendors for that tool. For some time, Cymer has been shipping an EUV power source operating at 8 Watts, which is designed for ASML’s NXE:3100, a pre-production EUV machine. Cymer shipped three 8 Watt EUV power sources in the fourth quarter of 2011, which was ahead of schedule by a quarter.

However, the company was originally supposed to ship a 20 Watt upgrade for the NXE:3100 by the end of 2011 or the beginning of the first quarter of 2012. The unit, dubbed “Upgrade 1,” is said to have less than a 0.5 percent dose stability and a 90 percent duty cycle.

Now, Upgrade 1 will get shipped by the end of the first quarter, which represents a 1-to-2 month delay. “Upgrade 1 is behind schedule relative to our last call,” said Bob Akins, Cymer’s chief executive, during a conference call.

The Upgrade 1 unit was expected to be “accomplished by year end,” he said. Now, the upgrade will be shipped “before the end of the quarter. It won’t run at 20 Watts initially. By (the second quarter, it) will be at full power.”

In reality, the EUV power sources are far behind schedule. ASML says it is one or two years behind in EUV roadmap. “We are significantly behind our roadmap,” Akins said.

“Cymer has proven 20 Watts internally, but is only now in the process of getting qualified at ASML,” said C.J. Muse, an analyst with Barclays Capital, in a report. “Cymer remains confident that it can get it done, but it appears that instead of reaching this milestone by the end of 1Q ‘12, ASML will likely not qualify the laser until the April-May timeframe.

“The laser is at ASML today, and is in the process of getting qualified, and Cymer still expects this light source to be deployed to chipmakers some time in 1H ‘12. Here, the primary technical issue is duty cycle, where the main problems remain the thermal stability of the optics, gas stability of the laser and better control of the firing/timing of the laser/droplets,” Muse said.

In the meantime, Cymer and other EUV source vendors are developing separate power sources for ASML’s NXE:3300B. The tool is expected to have a throughput of 69 wafers an hour, which requires a 100 Watt power source.

Cymer expects to deliver that source on time and “in the summer of this year,” Akins said during the call. “That’s not without some risk. We are trying as hard as we can.”

“Cymer also discussed running parallel work in producing its (high volume manufacturing) source 2 for ASML’s 3300 tools,” Barclay’s Muse said. “On this front, Cymer remains optimistic it can meet the schedule previously discussed. So clearly some disappointment here — but we continue to believe Cymer will prove successful in its EUV light source effort, as we believe many of the challenges are more evolutionary than revolutionary.”

But to hedge its bets in case of EUV delays — and to prepare for the multi-patterning era — ASML has bolstered its 193nm immersion roadmap. As reported, the Dutch-based company is developing at least two more generations of its 193nm immersion tools, including a scanner designed to process 300 wafers an hour.

The semiconductor industry is currently transitioning to development and high-volume manufacturing of 20nm generation process devices, with the most critical layers exposed using 193nm immersion scanners and incorporating double patterning. “Lithography solutions that deliver ultra-high productivity and exceptional overlay accuracy are imperative to making double patterning cost effective,” said Hamid Zarringhalam, executive vice president of Nikon Precision Inc.

This week, Nikon announced that its NSR-S621D 193nm immersion scanner began shipping to IC manufacturers in January “for the most demanding immersion double patterning layers.” Nikon shipped the tools to its largest customer, reportedly Intel Corp.

The S621D makes use of its Streamlign Platform. The combination of Stream Alignment and Five-Eye FIA systems enables a throughput of 200 wafers per hour (125 exposure shots/wafer). In addition, the Bird’s Eye Control system uses interferometers in conjunction with encoders to deliver overlay accuracy ≤ 2 nm with optimal stability.

Meanwhile, for the fourth quarter of 2011, Cymer posted a net income of $12.5 million, equal to $0.40 per share, compared to net income of $32.9 million, equal to $1.08 per share in the fourth quarter of 2010 and net income of $11.3 million, equal to $0.36 per share, in the third quarter of 2011.

Revenue totaled $152.9 million, compared to revenue of $146.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, and revenue of $128.7 million in the third quarter of 2011. Cymer beat the consensus forecast for the quarter, which called for sales of $129 million and earnings of $0.23.

For the first quarter of 2012, revenue is expected to be approximately $138 million. Commenting on the outlook for the first quarter of 2012, Akins said: “We expect Installed base products revenue to remain at or above the prior quarter level led by installed base growth, increased ArF pulses and light source product enhancements. We anticipate shipping a similar number of DUV ArF Immersion light sources, as compared to last quarter, but a lower number of KrF. We also anticipate recognizing revenue on our fourth 3100 EUV source and our third TCZ system.”

With EUV orders pulled into 4Q, Cymer guided below analysts’ estimates for the first quarter. The consensus forecast is $0.31 a share on sales of $150 million for the first quarter.