The Dutch company investors

The Dutch company that has investors salivating is now working on a machine that has the potential to revolutionize the electronics industry.

ASML, a hot stock in Europe, is working on a new version of their extreme ultraviolet lithography machine, which is used to carve patterns into chunks of silicon that produce the world’s most advanced chips.

ASML, based in Veldhoven, a small village near Eindhoven, is the only company in the world capable of producing these very complicated EUV devices – but the company isn’t stopping there.

TSMC, Samsung, and Intel use the company’s current EUV equipment to make chips for the following generation of computers and smartphones. However, a brand new version of the EUV machine called High NA is within the works, which could enable chipmakers to make even more sophisticated semiconductors to power the subsequent generation of electronic devices. The numerical aperture is abbreviated as NA.

When electronics giant Philips and chip-machine maker Advanced Semiconductor Materials International decided to make a brand new business to develop lithography systems for the burgeoning semiconductor industry in 1984, ASML was founded. ASM Lithography was founded in an unimpressive location – a shed next to a Philips building in Eindhoven.

ASML is currently valued at $329 billion, with some tech investors predicting that by the end of 2022, it will be worth $500 billion. It is the most valuable IT company in Europe and one of the most valuable in the world. Over 31,000 people work for the company in the Netherlands, the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, and mainland China.

How do EUV machines function?

EUV devices focus extremely thin beams of light onto silicon wafers that have been coated with chemicals known as “photoresist.” When light interacts with chemicals that have been properly put out previously, intricate patterns are produced on the wafer. Lithography is the name for the procedure that results in the fabrication of the crucial transistors.

Transistors are one of the most fundamental components of modern electronics, allowing an electric current to move across a circuit. In general, the more transistors that can be packed into a chip, the more powerful and efficient it will be.

ASML’s lithography systems do not all have EUV capability. EUV is the company’s most recent technology, which it introduced a few years ago for high-volume manufacturing. Deep ultraviolet (DUV) is still the industry’s workhorse.

Chipmakers seek to employ the smallest wavelength of light possible in lithography so that they can fit more transistors onto each piece of silicon, according to Chris Miller, an assistant professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Around 10 billion transistors are present in the TSMC chips used in the latest Apple iPhones, which were produced using ASML’s EUV equipment.

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Inventing a new machine

The High NA machine will be larger, more expensive, and more sophisticated than ASML’s present EUV machine.

A spokeswoman for ASML told CNBC, “It involves a unique optical design and requires substantially faster stages.” The High NA machine, they noted, has a better resolution, allowing for 1.7x smaller chip features and 2.9x higher chip density.

“Customers will cut the amount of process stages with this platform,” the representative stated. “This will provide them with a significant incentive to adopt the technology.” The platform will reduce defect, cost, and cycle time significantly.”

To put things in perspective, each of the present EUV machines contains over 100,000 components and requires 40 freight containers or four jumbo jets to transport. According to sources, each one cost roughly $140 million.

“They’re not resting on their laurels,” Miller said, adding that the company’s new machine will enable even more precise silicon chip etchings.

The first High NA machine is still in development, but it will be available for early access in 2023, allowing chipmakers to begin experimenting and learning how to make it work.

In 2024 and 2025, customers will be able to use them for their own research and development. From 2025 onward, they’re anticipated to be used in high-volume manufacturing.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger stated in July that the business hopes to be the first to receive ASML’s High NA machine.

“I’m sure he paid a lot for that right,” Miller added, “because he’s surely not the only one who wants to get their hands on this machine first.”

“High NA EUV is the next key technology development on the EUV roadmap,” Intel vice president of sales and marketing Maurits Tichelman told CNBC.

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“We are positioned to acquire the first production High NA EUV tool in the industry,” Tichelman stated, “and are working to enable its deployment in 2025.” He wouldn’t specify how many machines Intel has placed an order for.

According to Tichelman, the new High NA EUV tool switches from a.33 aperture lens to a sharper.55 aperture to enable greater resolution patterning.

A larger aperture inside the machine allows for a wider EUV beam before it strikes the wafer. The wider the beam, the more intense it may be when it reaches the wafer, increasing the precision with which lines can be printed. As a result, smaller geometries and smaller pitches are possible, boosting density.

According to Alan Priestley, a semiconductor expert at Gartner, ASML’s new equipment will allow chipmakers to build semiconductors smaller than three nanometers. The world’s most advanced chips are currently three nanometers and larger.

According to Priestley, the High NA machines would cost around $300 million, which is twice as much as the existing EUV machines, and they will require complex new lens technology.

How are chips made?

Chips are typically made up of 100 to 150 layers on a single silicon wafer. Only the most complex layers require EUV machines, whereas simpler layers can be created using DUV machines (which ASML also manufactures) and other equipment.

EUV machines take years to develop, and ASML can only export a limited number of them each year. According to its financials, it only sold 31 copies last year and only made roughly 100 in total.

“When compared to standard EUV machines, a High NA machine has a larger lens that can print tiny patterns, allowing for more efficient fabrication of more powerful chips,” said Syed Alam, Accenture’s global semiconductor head.

“Chipmakers that want to print tiny features on chips have had to rely on time-consuming double or triple patterning processes,” he noted. “They can print these features in a single layer with a High NA EUV machine, resulting in a shorter turnaround time and greater process flexibility.”

Chipmakers would have to strike a compromise between improved performance and the higher expenses of more advanced technology, according to Alam.

He added, “This is especially true with High NA EUV equipment, where larger lenses indicate higher purchase and maintenance expenses.”

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