For almost all manufacturing processes, understanding the cost to manufacture a product compared to the product price that the market will support is pivotal. This holds true for integrated circuit (IC) manufacturing. The ability for IC manufacturers to fabricate high-quality, functioning devices at the lowest possible affordable costs is a major contributor in maintaining IC productivity. This manufacturing cost, plus the profit margin is used to determine the product selling price for customer procurement. If manufacturing costs are not competitive, IC manufacturers may not sell enough products to generate the revenue and profit they need to support their operations. If all IC manufacturing costs are too high, regardless of which manufacturer's processes are used, then this cost will impact the overall growth of IC products in commercial applications and reduce overall IC productivity gains. Therefore, it is essential to understand the cost to manufacture high-quality, functioning IC devices compared to all of the process operating costs. This operating cost is generally referred to as cost of ownership (CoO).
A productivity gain in the IC industry is defined as cost reduction per IC function, which averages from 25 to 29% annually. Half of this average can be attributed to lithography's historic continuous improvements of shrinking feature sizes. Yet the evolution of lithography exposure tools and processes continues to be more expensive than previous generations. Lithography costs are 30 to 40% of the entire completed IC device or chip cost. Therefore, lithography CoO is always an important metric, not only for current IC manufacturing, but also to calculate the expected operating costs for new lithography technologies in development and to assess cost effectiveness.
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