Dongjin Semichem, a South Korean semiconductor and display materials maker, has secured an additional lithography system for the purpose of ArF (Argon Fluoride) photoresist development in order to rapidly enter the ArF photoresist market that is practically monopolized by Japanese companies. ArF is a key material that is currently used for semiconductor lithography process.
According to the industry, Dongjin Semichem is planning to bring in an ArF immersion lithography system from ASML in order to accelerate the process of ArF photoresist development. This system is a used system that had been used by Dongjin Semichem’s biggest customer in South Korea.
Dongjin Semichem brought in an ArF immersion lithography system to its Cheonan plant last year. However, it has been looking to purchase an additional system as localization of photoresist has emerged as an important topic ever since Japanese Government imposed trade restrictions on South Korea at the end of last year. It is planning to bring in the system soon after the system goes through ASML’s refurbishment process.
“It seems that Dongjin Semichem is investing its R&D expense that has been made through the government’s budget into purchasing additional necessary systems.” said a representative who is familiar with the industry. “There is a high chance that Dongjin Semichem’s top executives such as Chairman Lee Boo-sup were the driving forces behind Dongjin Semichem’s decision to purchase the system from ASML.”
ArF photoresist is a material that must be applied to a wafer before lithography process that replicates patterns through a particular light source. ArF is currently used by semiconductor manufacturers to mass-produce their main chips.
ArF photoresist can be used for dry system that uses air for the refraction of light that reaches wafer and immersion system that uses liquid with high light refractive index.
The industry currently uses ArF immersion system as the main lithography system. Photoresists that are used for ArF immersion system mostly come from Japanese companies such as JSR Corporation, Shin-Etsu Chemical, and Tokyo Ohka Kogyo. These companies make huge amount of sales as they export their products to South Korean semiconductor manufacturers.
Dongjin Semichem currently produces photoresists for both dry and immersion systems. However, it is heard that its market shares are at an insignificant level.
The industry believes that Dongjin Semichem will focus even harder into entering the ArF photoresist market by purchasing multiple ArF immersion systems this year. It believes that Dongjin Semichem is basically the only South Korean company that has a real shot at entering the market.
Some predict that Dongjin Semichem will use ArF lithography system to research photoresist for EUV lithography process that is seen as the next-generation lithography method. However, the EUV photoresist market is also monopolized by Japanese companies and it is one of the items imposed with a trade restriction by Japanese Government.
“Although systems that were recently purchase by Dongjin Semichem cannot be used to develop a complete EUV photoresist, they can be used to evaluate very basic performance of EUV photoresist.” said a representative for the industry.
“Although there is a plan of having two ArF immersion systems, we are not sure how many more systems we are going to purchase in the future.” said a representative for Dongjin Semichem. “We cannot disclose any specific information regarding our plan to purchase a system.”
Staff Reporter Kang, Hyeryung | firstname.lastname@example.org