SPIE Microlithography Conference, Day 5 (Friday)

There is one day left in the microlithography conference, but not for me. I am catching a flight back to Austin this morning, leaving the last day of the conference to lithographers hardier than myself. And I leave with mixed feelings. This conference is always amazing, for the collection of people and their interactions, for the scope and depth of technical topics discussed, and for the undeniable impact that this week has on the direction of our industry. But it is also disappointing, because the conference does not live up to its potential. The problem statement is simple, though the solution is not: about half of the oral papers are not worth listening to. Too little technical content, and too much marketing message. How much knowledge do I gain when a resist vendor tells me that “Material A” with “High Index Fluid 1” outperforms “Material B” with “High Index Fluid 2”? How is my job affected by learning that an EDA startup has a new litho model (soon to be available) that is fast and accurate, but they won’t talk about the model, or how they measure speed and accuracy? They should spend money on a booth at the Technical Exhibit if they want to give that kind of a sales pitch.
The difference between a marketing pitch and a technical paper is obviously technical content. And in a scientific conference, technical content is judged by, among other factors, whether enough information is given so that others can reproduce the work. It is one of the foundations of the scientific process. Papers that talk about “resist A” and “tool B” are useless. Papers that simply show off a company’s product don’t fit here. Saying “I can’t discuss that information, it’s proprietary” is an indication that the discussion does not belong in an open forum. The standards for papers at this conference are on the decline. I hope the conference chairs decide that bigger is not always better and try to do something to limit the marketing fluff that surrounds and hides the true gems – the real technical papers – that can still be found during SPIE Microlithography week.

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