ASML and Imec unveil pricy High NA EUV playground for chipmakers

Because who doesn't love a $373M toy?

ASML and Belgian R&D biz Imec have opened a lab giving chipmakers access to the latest High NA EUV lithography equipment and associated tools to accelerate development of their next-gen products.

The Dutch technology giant says that the opening of the joint Lithography Lab in Veldhoven, where the company is based, marks a milestone in prepping High NA EUV for adoption in mass manufacturing processes.

As part of the plan, the lab will give companies involved in semiconductor manufacturing access to a High NA EUV scanner (TWINSCAN EXE:5000) and the associated processing and metrology tools, ASML says. This will include logic and memory chipmakers, as well as advanced materials and equipment suppliers.

This isn't a philanthropic gesture, of course; it is aimed at companies likely to procure one of these costly (about €350 million or $373 million each) chipmaking machines, or those likely to be involved in services and support surrounding them.

"The ASML Imec High NA EUV Lithography Lab provides an opportunity for our EUV customers, partners, and suppliers to access the High NA EUV system for process development while waiting for their own system to be available at their factories," president and CEO Christophe Fouquet said in a statement.

"This type of very early engagement with the ecosystem is unique and could significantly accelerate the learning curve on the technology and smooth the introduction in manufacturing. We are committed to work with and support our customers in this journey with High NA EUV."

High NA EUV lithography is regarded as the next step in shrinking semiconductor features, according to ASML. The new kit is able to print transistors 1.7 times smaller and achieve transistor densities 2.9 times higher than before, it claims.

Imec, or Interuniversity Microelectronics Center, regards High NA EUV as "the next milestone in optical lithography," offering the promise of marking out metal lines or spaces with 20nm pitch, which will ultimately enable further generations of DRAM chips.

This will improve yield, reduce cycle times, and may even cut CO2 emissions compared to existing multi-patterning EUV schemes, according to Imec president and CEO Luc Van den hove, pushing Moore's Law well into the ångström era.

Van den hove added: "the High NA EUV Lithography Lab will act as a virtual extension of our 300 mm cleanroom in Leuven, enabling us to further improve the patterning ecosystem and push the resolution of the High NA EUV towards its ultimate limits."

Intel received the first production High NA EUV machine at its facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, earlier this year, for use with its upcoming 14A process node. At least one other machine has also shipped, but it is not known who received it, although some sources claim that Intel has purchased all of the machines that ASML will manufacture this year. ®

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