Chip manufacturing equipment vendor ASML reports fire at Berlin factory

'Too early to make any statement on the damage'

Updated Dutch lithography giant ASML has reported a fire at its factory in Berlin, Germany, acquired from optics company Berliner Glas in 2020.

No one was hurt and the fire was put out on Sunday night, it said on Monday, without providing any details about its potential impact on production (and hence supply chains) – a concern to many.

The fire was extinguished during the night and fortunately no persons were injured during this incident. At this point it is too early to make any statement on the damage or whether the incident will have any impact on the output plan for this year.

It will take a few days to conduct a thorough investigation and make a full assessment. As soon as we have such assessment, we will provide an update.

ASML is the world's largest supplier of photolithography systems, the machines used to manufacture integrated circuits. Its units – which cost tens of millions of dollars – use lasers to etch components into blank silicon wafers, to within an accuracy of nanometres.

Berlin's fire department said last night that an automatic cleaning system had caught fire across an area of 200m² on the second floor of a three-storey "industrial" building in Waldkraiburger Strasse in Berlin's Britz district in the Neukölln area.

Resources deployed at the site included a drone that could access the roof.

The Berlin company's stated production area is 31,780m².

A spokesperson confirmed to The Register that a part of the Berlin factory was closed – but said other parts of the factory were still operating.

Berliner Glas, where the fire was extinguished, was acquired by ASML in 2020, and says that over "1,200 employees" work at the firm, now known as ASML Berlin, developing and producing "several key components for ASML lithography systems, including wafer tables and clamps, reticle chucks and mirror blocks."

These are key components for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and deep ultraviolet (DUV) systems. EUV, in particular, which helps ASML's semiconductor-making clients print chips in much finer detail and at a lower cost, is seen as one of the drivers behind the firm's predictions of a $1 trillion semiconductor industry by 2030.

The Dutch firm's customers include TSMC and Intel.

ASML divested itself of Berliner Glas's non-semiconductor businesses late last year after regulatory approvals.

In comments accompanying its most recent results, for Q3 ended 20 October 2021, the firm said: "In our EUV business, we had a record quarter in terms of shipments and revenue, due to the volume as well as the share of TWINSCAN NXE:3600D systems."

Its third-quarter bookings came in at €6.2bn, with €2.9bn of that from EUV systems. CEO Peter Wennink noted in an investors' call: "The demand continues to be high. The ongoing digital transformation and current chip shortage fuel the need to increase our capacity to meet the current and expected future demand for memory and for all logic nodes."

The firm's stock price dipped 2 per cent on the news. That being said, the extent of the damage has not been confirmed and the stock is today worth 53 per cent more than it was in January 2021. Supply chain issues mean customers are still clawing for capacity, with the company saying it's supplying orders booked up to 2023.

"We have a total backlog of €19.6bn, including EUV of €11.6bn, which is a reflection of the very healthy market environment we are in today and fully covers the planned EUV output for 2022 and the beginning of 2023." ®

Updated to add at 0947 UTC on 11 January

ASML said in an update that the fire had occurred "in a part of one production building on the site in Berlin and the smoke partly impacted an adjacent building. We have been able to resume production in parts of these buildings already. The other buildings on the site have not been affected and are fully operational."

It added that its manufacturing of DUV components had been restarted, saying: "

Although there was some disruption regarding components for DUV, we expect to remediate this in such a way that it will not affect our output and revenue plan for DUV."

Its EUV unit still appears to be out of order.

As to EUV, the fire affected part of the production area of the wafer clamp, a module in our EUV systems. We are still in the process of completing the recovery plan for this production area and determining how to minimize any potential impact for our EUV customers, both in our output plan and in our field service.

ASML said it expects to say more about the incident and how it will affect the output of these crucial machines when it presents its Q4 and full fiscal 2021 results, in just over a week's time.

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