3. A host of Nikon technologies enables semiconductor production
Semiconductor lithography systems require three key technologies, which determine their performance.
The first technology is "the resolution capability of the projection lens." The better the resolving power of the lens, the more intricate a circuit pattern can be when it is optically transferred. To improve lens performance, Nikon manages quality through an integrated system of production from the blending of raw materials for the lens to dissolving, grinding, coating, and assembly.
The second technology is "alignment accuracy." To produce a single semiconductor, photomasks must be replaced tens of times and circuit patterns must be repeatedly etched in the exposure process. It is therefore of critical importance that the silicon wafer and photomask be perfectly aligned each time. Nikon uses multiple sensors to position the photomask and silicon wafer at the nanometer level with extreme precision.
The third vital component is "throughput." This technology is important when semiconductors are mass-produced. Throughput is an indication of productivity, which is expressed by the number of silicon wafers that can be exposed in an hour. The stage that holds the wafer in position is controlled at high speed in order to expose the maximum number of semiconductors on a single wafer and boost throughput.
By refining these three technologies individually, and taking on the highly difficult research and development involved in combining them all at a high level in a single piece of equipment, Nikon manufactures semiconductor lithography systems that are described as "the most precise machines in history."