Cymer, Inc. (CYMI) is the leading original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of deep ultraviolet (DUV) light sources that are contained within excimer laser-based photolithography systems. Photolithography systems are employed during the front-end process of semiconductor production.
The front-end process begins with device formation. This process begins with a wafer (usually made of silicon) having a layer of photoresist (a chemical that hardens when exposed to an ultraviolet light source) spin-coated onto the surface in liquid form to drive off the excess solvent, and then "soft-baked" or cured. A photomask is then loaded into the lithography system. Photomasks, also called masks or reticles (if the mask is "stepped" across the wafer), are high-purity quartz or glass plates containing precise microscopic images that are used by a photolithography tool, also known as a stepper. An excimer laser is then passed over the photomask and through a reduction lens system that exposes the desired areas of photoresist, which is then subsequently removed, permitting deposition to the surface of the wafer. A strip system is utilized to remove the photoresist or other chemical residues following diffusion processing or film deposition. Thin layers of dopants are then grown or deposited in a precise pattern within the wafer using various chemical, vapor or ion implant techniques. The deposition process alters the atomic structure of the material, and therefore necessarily the electronic properties of the material. Further into the wafer fabrication process, a series of metallization steps are executed, in which conducting materials, that interconnect the semiconductor devices, are deposited. Multiple layers of conducting, semiconducting and insulating materials are constructed on and within the wafer via successive steps of lithography, etching and deposition, utilizing unique masks for each layer. Depending on the geometry and the device, anywhere from 35 to 45 unique masks are used in the device formation process with 10 to 100 layers (or more for microprocessors) being constructed. Typically, the outcome is a wafer with multi-layered semiconducting devices, known as transistors. The transistors are interconnected with conducting materials, and insulating materials are used to electronically isolate the active components. The net result is a silicon wafer that contains multiple copies of integrated circuit devices.
The photolithography tools include both step-and-repeat (steppers) and step-and-scan (scanners) laser systems and contain a light source. Light sources are classified according to the gases mixed to produce a short burst of light or by the wavelength of light. Krypton Fluoride (KrF) gases produce light at 248 nanometers (nm), Argon Fluoride (ArF) gases at 193nm and Fluorine (F2) at 157nm. Cymer only produces KrF and ArF excimer lasers. Cymer is the dominant provider to the semiconductor manufacturing industry, with an approximate market share of 82%. The company has only two direct competitors, Lambda-Physik and Gigaphoton. Lambda-Physik has previously announced its intention of exiting the light source market. Outside of semiconductor market applications, where the requirements are less demanding, Cymer has a 50% share of the light source market. CYMI outsources the subassembly manufacturing to third parties, but final system assembly is done in its San Diego facility.
Cymer's product segments consist of photolithography light sources, consumables, replacement parts and services. Light sources generated 59% of revenue in 2004, and consumables, replacement parts and services made up the remaining 41%. Cymer supplies light sources to all three manufacturers of DUV photolithography systems ASM Lithography, Canon and Nikon. These three customers sell DUV photolithography tools to the world's 20 largest semiconductor manufacturers. ASM Lithography accounted for 34% of 2004 sales, Nikon 22% and Canon 11%. Sales directly to chipmakers comprised the remaining 33%. Sales by geography in 2004 were U.S. 18%, Japan 32%, and the rest of the world 50%. ASM is located in the Netherlands, while Canon and Nikon are based in Japan.
TCZ, the new JV, is expected to be the vehicle to penetrate the lucrative flat panel display market. Currently, the dominant flat panel technology is active-matrix TFT LCDs that are expected to grow 35% annually over the next five years. TCZ will attempt to leverage Cymer's light source expertise and Carl Zeiss' optics technology into new products that will focus on the low temperature, poly crystal and silicon LTPS for active-matrix TFT LCDs and the emerging organic light emitting diode (OLEDs) displays. Initially a Gen 4 production tool will be developed, that will replace some tools in current production. The new technology will be incorporated into successively larger and more sophisticated tools. Final product assembly will take place at the Cymer Korea facility.
Cymer's 85% market share makes it the largest supplier of light sources used in the manufacture of stepper and scanner semiconductor production equipment. Lambda-Physik, one of its two direct competitors, will be exiting the photolithography light source market which should create the opportunity for further share gains.
The semiconductor manufacturing industry is transitioning to larger wafer sizes (300mm from 200mm), using new materials that offer performance improvements (copper and low-k dielectrics), and increasing device densities (smaller design rules). This is driving innovation in photolithography tooling, and specifically, requirements for light sources that deliver high spectral purity at high power levels and low operational costs.
Despite a significant decline in foundry utilization rates since in the first half of 2005, the company was been able to maintain a steady installation rate of between 65-75 units per quarter and with an increasingly higher average selling price (ASP) per unit. The demand for for ArF sources has been stable. These orders were more technology driven versus capacity driven KrF orders. Within the ArF segment, Cymer maintains a dominant position since most customers are looking for technology leading products. Most of the second quarter ArF source sales were for second generation XLA-105 ArF sources. However, the company shipped the first XLA-200 source in the first quarter, which is the third generation of the XLA series and the first commercially available immersion lithography light souce. Furthermore, the first XLA-300 order was received in the second quarter and is on schedule for release later in 2005. Cymer's XLA series sources utilize the two-chamber MOPA (master oscillator power amplifier) technology.
Management reported general industry conditions in the last several quarters showed gradual and steady improvement, continuing the trend it began early this year. Overall fab utilization continued to rise, cresting at the 95-100% level, several percentage points above the 87% to 88% range reached in early 2005. Foundry utilization showed a substantial pick up as major memory manufacturers indicated that the longer term picture include significant growth and demand that will require additional capacity especially for NAND flash.
Sustained growth is likely to come from new products such as the XLA-200 and XLA-300 lasers. The XLA-200 and XLA-300 are designed to specifically work with immersion tools. Immersion lithography permits the light source to be more precisely controlled during the formation process resulting in smaller design geometries or line resolutions. This is accomplished by using water rather than "dry" air between the wafer and hyper-NA (numerical aperture) lenses, thus improving the depth of focus and the extension of wavelengths to lower nodes. Cymer also plans on the introduction of new performance features that will improve critical dimension uniformity and increase depth of focus. This year CYMI plans to move into production with these new products enabling the company to maintain a significant lead over competitors in ArF lasers and immersion lithography technical development.
The KrF segment is characterized as being a mature and more competitive market, with customers that are more price sensitive. KrF orders are more closely tied to foundry utilization rates and are more capacity driven. The majority of first quarter sales were for the ELS-7010 KrF sources. Over the past three quarters, unit sales have been roughly evenly spilt between ArF and KrF light sources, although ArF has an increasing proportion in terms of dollar value, thus driving the higher ASPs. Management expects that ArF 300mm technology will increasingly command a larger fraction of light source demand.
On the cost structure front, Cymer has been able to reduce costs, even as revenue has declined during the present down cycle. Cash margins have been sustained at greater than 14% over the past seven quarters. The company employs a large temporary workforce, since this allows it increased operating flexibility, increasing headcount to meet the growing demand, or reducing it when there is a drop in demand. Management has further reduced inventory during the second quarter and has implemented a new online maintenance system.