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World NewsASML's High-NA EUV lithography machine is set to transform chipmaking

ASML’s High-NA EUV lithography machine is set to transform chipmaking

ASML’s EUV lithography machine is on show throughout the 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE) on the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai.

China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images

Dutch agency ASML, certainly one of Europe’s hottest shares, is engaged on a brand new model of its excessive ultraviolet lithography machine, which is used to carve patterns onto items of silicon that kind probably the most superior chips on this planet.

Headquartered in Veldhoven, a small village close to the Dutch metropolis of Eindhoven, ASML is the one agency on this planet able to making these extremely advanced EUV machines — nevertheless it’s not stopping there.

The firm’s present EUV machine is utilized by TSMC, Samsung and Intel to make chips that find yourself within the newest crop of computer systems and smartphones. But there is a new model of the EUV machine within the pipeline, dubbed High NA, that might enable chipmakers to construct much more refined chips to energy the subsequent technology of digital gadgets. NA stands for numerical aperture.

ASML was born in 1984 when electronics big Philips and chip-machine producer Advanced Semiconductor Materials International determined to create a brand new firm to develop lithography methods for the rising semiconductor business. Called ASM Lithography, the corporate started its work inauspiciously — in a shed subsequent to a Philips workplace in Eindhoven.

Today, ASML is valued at $329 billion, and a few tech buyers count on it to be price $500 billion by the top of 2022. It is the most important tech firm in Europe by market worth and one of many largest on this planet. It employs over 31,000 workers throughout the Netherlands, the United States, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China.

How EUV machines work

EUV machines shine exceptionally slim beams of sunshine onto silicon wafers which have been handled with “photoresist” chemical substances. Intricate patterns are created on the wafer the place the sunshine comes into contact with the chemical substances, that are fastidiously laid out beforehand. This course of, which leads to the formation of the all-important transistors, is referred to as lithography.

Transistors are one of many primary constructing blocks of recent electronics, they usually allow an electrical present to circulation round a circuit. Generally talking, the extra transistors you possibly can match onto a chip, the extra highly effective and environment friendly that chip shall be.

Not each lithography system that ASML makes has EUV capabilities. EUV is the corporate’s newest expertise, which it launched for high-volume manufacturing a couple of years in the past. DUV (deep ultraviolet) is nonetheless the workhorse of the business.

Chris Miller, an assistant professor on the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, advised CNBC that chipmakers need to use the narrowest wavelength of sunshine potential in lithography in order that they will match extra transistors onto each bit of silicon. The TSMC chips within the newest Apple iPhones, which have been created with ASML’s EUV machines, have round 10 billion transistors on them.

Developing the brand new machine

High NA is set to be even greater, dearer and extra sophisticated than ASML’s present EUV machine.

“It includes a novel optics design and requires significantly faster stages,” an ASML spokesperson advised CNBC. They added that the High NA machine has a better decision that may allow 1.7x smaller chip options and a pair of.9x elevated chip density.

“With this platform, customers will reduce the numbers of process steps,” the spokesperson continued. “This will be a strong motivation for them to adopt the technology. The platform will offer significant defect, cost and cycle time reductions.”

For context, every of the present EUV machines reportedly has over 100,000 elements, they usually take 40 freight containers or 4 jumbo jets to ship. They value round $140 million every, in accordance to stories.

“They’re not resting on their laurels,” mentioned Miller, including that the corporate’s new machine will enable much more particular etchings on silicon chips.

The first High NA machine is nonetheless underneath improvement and it is set to be out there for early entry from 2023 in order that chipmakers can begin experimenting with it and find out how to make it work.

Customers will then have the opportunity use them for their very own analysis and improvement in 2024 and 2025. They’re seemingly to be utilized in high-volume manufacturing from 2025 onward.

In July, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger mentioned the corporate expects to be the primary recipient of ASML’s High NA machine.

“I would bet that he paid a lot for that right because he’s certainly not the only person that would like to get their hands on this machine first,” Miller mentioned.

Maurits Tichelman, a vp of gross sales and advertising at Intel, advised CNBC: “High NA EUV is the next major technology change on the EUV roadmap.”

He added: “We are positioned to receive the first production High NA EUV tool in the industry and are driving to enable its introduction in 2025,” Tichelman mentioned. He declined to say what number of machines Intel has ordered.

The new High NA EUV software shifts from a .33 aperture lens to a sharper .55 aperture to allow greater decision patterning, Tichelman mentioned.

The next aperture permits for a wider EUV beam contained in the machine earlier than it hits the wafer. The wider this beam, the extra intense it may be when it hits the wafer, which will increase how precisely strains are printed. This in flip allows smaller geometries and far smaller pitches, growing density.

Alan Priestley, a semiconductor analyst at Gartner, advised CNBC that ASML’s new machine will enable chip producers to make chips under three nanometers. The most superior chips on this planet are presently three nanometers and above.

The High NA machines will value about $300 million, which is twice as a lot as the prevailing EUV machines, they usually’ll want advanced new lens expertise, Priestley added.

How chips are made

Chips are sometimes comprised of 100-150 silicon wafers layered on high of each other. Only probably the most sophisticated layers want to be made with EUV machines, whereas extra easy layers may be made with DUV machines, which ASML additionally makes, and different instruments.

EUV machines take years to construct and ASML can solely ship so a lot of them in any given yr. Last yr, it bought simply 31, in accordance to its financials, and it is made round solely 100 in whole.

“Compared to traditional EUV machines, a High NA machine provides a bigger lens capable of printing smaller patterns, enabling efficient manufacturing of more powerful chips,” mentioned Syed Alam, world semiconductor lead at Accenture.

“Chipmakers looking to print smaller features onto chips have had to rely on double or triple patterning techniques, which is time-consuming,” he added. “With a High NA EUV machine, they are able to print these features in a single layer, resulting in a faster turnaround time and better process flexibility.”

Chipmakers could have to strike a stability between higher efficiency and the higher prices related to extra refined equipment, Alam mentioned.

“This is particularly true with High NA EUV machines where larger lenses imply higher acquisition and maintenance costs,” he mentioned.

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