Intel Takes Lead in Chip Manufacturing with ASML’s High NA EUV Tool

Intel announced it’s the first company to assemble ASML’s High NA EUV lithography tools, marking a significant advancement in the U.S. chipmaker’s strategy.
High NA EUV lithography tools from ASMLThe acquisition of ASML’s tool, priced at $373 million, underscores Intel’s commitment to staying ahead of rivals in the semiconductor industry. These tools are pivotal in driving the development of smaller, faster chips, crucial for meeting the demands of evolving technology.

Mark Phillips, Intel’s director of lithography, has expressed confidence in the cost-effectiveness of the investment, emphasizing that Intel’s decision was based on a thorough assessment of the tool’s potential benefits.

ASML, renowned as Europe’s largest tech firm, holds a dominant position in the market for lithography systems, vital for chip manufacturing, Reuters news report said.

The introduction of High NA tools is poised to revolutionize chip designs, potentially reducing their size by up to two thirds. However, chipmakers must weigh the advantages of enhanced performance against the higher costs and potential engineering challenges associated with adopting newer technologies.

High NA EUV is expected to be able to print features up to 1.7x smaller than existing EUV tools. This will enable 2D feature scaling, resulting in up to 2.9x more density.

Compared to 0.33NA EUV, High NA EUV (or 0.55NA EUV) can deliver higher imaging contrast for similar features, which enables less light per exposure, thereby reducing the time required to print each layer and increasing wafer output.

Intel’s proactive stance in adopting High NA EUV technology reflects its strategic shift from previous reliance on “multi-patterning” techniques, which proved less efficient and led to commercial setbacks. Mark Phillips acknowledged Intel’s previous misstep in delaying the adoption of ASML’s EUV products, opting for alternative methods that proved inadequate.

The installation of the High NA EUV tool at Intel’s Hillsboro, Oregon campus signals a significant step forward in the company’s chip development roadmap. Expected to be fully operational later this year, the tool will play a pivotal role in the development of Intel’s 14A generation of chips, with early production slated for 2026 and full commercial production expected in 2027.

ASML’s announcement of shipping a second High NA system to an undisclosed customer, likely TSMC or Samsung, underscores the intense competition among industry leaders. However, Intel’s early adoption of the technology positions it favorably for future advancements in chip manufacturing, reaffirming its commitment to technological innovation and market leadership.

Baburajan Kizhakedath