Canon challenges ASML – the company will produce chip making machines with advanced lithography, but without EUV

Japanese Canon is developing a new generation of lithographic equipment for semiconductor manufacturing, capable of competing with the products of Dutch ASML, which is practically monopolist in the market for such solutions. The construction of a new plant in Japan will also be a response to investments by competitors in the related sector in the United States, South Korea and Taiwan.

Image source: Canon

The investment is expected to be $ 345 million, including construction and installation costs for manufacturing equipment. The plant will begin production in the spring of 2025. As a result, the company will double its production capacity in this niche. The company not only intends to expand production, but also focuses on new technologies, thanks to which it will be possible to produce next generation semiconductors at low prices. Today it produces lithographic equipment in two factories in Japan, which are used to produce chips, for example, for automobile control systems.

The new plant will be built on a plot of 70,000 m2 on the territory of an existing production. This will be Canon’s first new lithography facility in 21 years and construction will begin in 2023. In 2022, sales of lithography equipment are expected to grow 29% year-on-year to 180 machines, four times more than a decade ago. The new plant will meet the growing demand.

According to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics, the global semiconductor market exceeded $ 500 billion last year for the first time in history, and the industry expects it to exceed $ 1 trillion in 2030. Today, Canon controls the volume of the 30% of the global lithographic equipment market, second only to ASML, which represents 60%. Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) have announced plans to build new in-house factories in the United States and other countries. Canon has decided to follow their example.

The company has also developed a next-generation technology called nano-printed lithography. This allows the most advanced microcircuits to be produced at lower prices than existing lithographic equipment. The process is simplified thanks to a technique that allows the designs of integrated circuits to be literally “stamped”, which can significantly reduce production costs: Japan’s Kioxia and Dai Nippon Printing took part in the development of the technology.

Today, technology that uses EUV lithography to form nano-level circuits is the most indispensable technology. The only source of such technologies today is the Dutch ASML. However, such equipment is expensive, costing around $ 138 million per machine, and consumes a lot of energy. If nano-printed lithography reaches the stage of practical commercial use, Canon plans to reduce the cost of lithography by up to 40% and energy consumption by up to 90% compared to EUV. This will shake ASML’s dominance of the market.

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