SPIE Microlithography Conference, Post Script

I am comfortably back in my home on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Austin (this is Texas – we love the rain here). In a couple more days I should be fully recovered from the week’s stresses and strains. At least physically.
It was a busy week. And a big one. My contacts at SPIE tell me the conference had over 4,200 attendees coming to watch about 860 technical papers (compare that with about 100 attendees and 26 papers thirty years ago). That translates into heavy-duty information overload for conference attendees and lots of money for the conference organizer, SPIE. The average cost to semiconductor companies to send a person to the conference is probably $3,000 – $4,000 when the salary of the person is figured in. Accounting for students, technical exhibit only attendees, locals, and people who only come for a small part of the week, the industry is still spending on the order of $10 million just to send people to the conference (though of course the supplier companies probably spend a comparable amount for booths, hospitality suites, and customer dinners). Even for a $250 billion industry, that’s not chump change. Is it worth the money?
The answer is obviously yes. This is an important week – essential even – for lithographers. What is at stake here is significant beyond semiconductor revenue growth. The future of Moore’s Law is in the balance. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to say that if you let more lithographers play in the scientific sandbox the world’s technological progress will be assured. Or even that scaling transistor dimensions according to the tradition of Moore’s Law is needed for progress. Industry advancements will occur whether lithographers keep pushing resolution down for another decade or hit a brick wall next year. But the nature of competition, growth, and progress in semiconductors, computers, entertainment and all of electronics will be affected by what lithographers can accomplish over the next few years. If you’re behind, it will be hard to catch up. But if you’re at the front of the pack, the future is yours to make.

5 thoughts on “SPIE Microlithography Conference, Post Script”

  1. I’ve become hooked on your daily diary. Will you every expound upon what you think SPIE this year meant in terms of trends and drivers? Last year’s ideas that were firmly planted 6 feet down this year? Changes in probabilities of success for EUV as a production technology at/below 32nm, for example? Your thoughts on who is winning the technology horse race among the stepper companies? Resist companies? Mask companies? Others? You stuck it to Intel fairly well. They’re not your only target are they?

  2. Hi Chris,

    It is a great pleasure to see your web site up and running.

    SPIE conference has been a forum to "let hundred flowers bloom". It is better than, IMHO, "the other" litho conference, the 3beams, as some of us may still remember.

    So, is it dry or wet in Austin? Has our industry leader shrunk the gate to the noise level, therefore it doesn’t matter wet or dry? A noise level only EUV could overcome?

  3. Three years ago at this conference (SPIE ML), in 2003, you (noted lithographer and Gentleman Scientist) hailed the end of the semiconductor industry “as we know it.” You argued that the days of non-linear growth and exponential improvements in technology were coming to a close, and speculated that retirement was near for many. Well, you got the retirement part right (self-fulfilling prophecy?). What about the end of the world (er, ah, I mean industry)?

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