Intel will be the first company to take delivery of a 0.55 numerical aperture (high-NA) extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography device from ASML this year, with the majority of machines planned for 2024. The number of machines suggests that Intel plans to use the Twinscan EXE machines more widely. With these EUV machines, Intel can eventually also produce 2nm chips, but that probably won’t happen before 2025.
ASML will produce just ten of these machines next year, with the remaining four already allocated to Samsung. There are of course other competitors such as TSMC, SK Hynix and Micron that also require EUV equipment. The impact of Intel purchasing the majority of these machines is not clear at this time and there is fierce competition between companies to acquire these machines.
Intel will first receive the Twinscan EXEL 5000 pilot scanner from ASML and use it primarily to learn how to most effectively use high-NA EUV lithography in commercial chip production. Intel originally planned to use these machines for its Intel 18A (18 Angstroms, 1.8nm-class) production node to make the smallest possible prints, but had to opt for EUV multi-pattering given the expected arrival of the high -NA equipment. The Twinscan EXE:5200 scanners they receive next year will be used for mass production of chips with Intel 18A and other processes from 2025 and beyond.
This is expected to have a positive impact on the company’s production cycles, although the machines are more expensive than their predecessors. Since the machines have many small processors, it is not yet clear what influence this will have on the production process. Intel is therefore at the forefront in learning high-NA processes, which gives it an advantage over its competitors. The company can start producing in large volumes sooner, giving it a significant advantage over TSMC and Samsung Foundry.
Samsung is also not sitting idle and has signed its own deal with ASML to prioritize high-NA technology. The company mainly wants to focus on the production of DRAM memory chips and logic chips in the long term.
Sources: TomsHardware, TrendForce