Zhitong Finance APP has learned that Canon (CAJPY.US) plans to price its new chip manufacturing equipment at a fraction of the cost of ASML’s (ASML.US) best lithography machine, seeking to make progress in the field of cutting-edge equipment. Canon previously launched a nanoimprinted semiconductor manufacturing system in an attempt to revitalize its market position by positioning the technology as an easier and more accessible alternative to existing state-of-the-art tools.
Canon’s new chip-making machines can produce circuits equivalent to 5 nanometers in size using extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) technology, an area monopolized by industry leader ASML.Canon expects that as technology continues to advance and be optimized, its equipment will be expected to achieve next-generation 2nm production levels
CEO Fujio Mitarai said the company’s new nanoimprint technology will open a way for small semiconductor manufacturers to produce advanced chips, a technology that currently belongs almost exclusively to the industry’s largest companies.
“The price of this product will be a single digit lower than ASML’s EUV equipment,” Mitarai said, adding that a final pricing decision has not yet been made.
ASML is the sole supplier of EUV tools, the world’s most advanced chip-making machines worth hundreds of millions of dollars each. Only a handful of cash-rich companies can afford to invest in these tools, which are currently under scrutiny for their critical role in the tech supply chain. ASML was banned from exporting EUV systems to Chinese customers after the United States pressured its allies to restrict the flow of technology to China.
That gives hope to Canon’s new tool, which it launched last month. In July this year, Japan expanded restrictions on chip manufacturing exports, but did not explicitly mention nanoimprint lithography technology.
But Mitarai said Canon may not be able to ship the machines to China. “My understanding is that export of anything above 14 nanometer technology is prohibited, so I don’t think we can sell it.” An official at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said he could not comment on how export restrictions would affect a particular company or product. .
Canon has been working on the nanoimprint process for nearly a decade with Dai Nippon Printing Co. and memory chip maker Kioxia. Unlike extreme ultraviolet lithography, which works by reflected light, Canon’s technology prints circuit patterns directly onto the wafer, creating chips with geometries said to be comparable to the most advanced nodes, albeit at much slower speeds.
The new machine gives chipmakers the option to reduce their reliance on foundries, while also making it more likely that contract chipmakers such as TSMC and Samsung Electronics will be able to mass-produce chips. Canon says the machine requires one-tenth the power of its EUV counterparts.
“I don’t think nanoimprint technology will replace EUV, but I believe it will create new opportunities and needs,” Mitarai said. “We have received a lot of inquiries from customers.”
Canon, which had previously focused on making less advanced chips, began betting on nanoimprint technology in 2014 when it acquired Molecular Imprint Inc. As one of TSMC’s suppliers, Canon is building its first new lithography equipment factory in 20 years in Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo, which will be put into operation in 2025.
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