Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, yesterday said it agreed to join a co-investment program initiated by European semiconductor equipment maker ASML Holding NV, to accelerate development of next-generation semiconductor equipment manufacturing technologies.
The agreement stipulates making an investment of 838 million euros (US$1 billion) in ASML to buy 5 percent of the company’s equity and, in addition, TSMC has also committed to invest 276 million euros in ASML’s research and development programsover a period of more than 5 years.
The announcement came after US chip giant Intel Corp unveiled last month a similar, but bigger investment package totaling 3.3 billion euros in collaboration with ASML.
Intel said it has entered into a series of agreements with ASML to quicken the development of 450-millimeter wafer technology and extreme ultra-violet (EUV) lithography, cutting-edge semiconductor equipment. The deal also included the purchase of a 15 percent stake in ASML.
ASML also invited its client Samsung Electronics to participate in this co-investment program, but the South Korean firm has not announced its decision yet. If Samsung agrees to a similar investment package, it would hold a 5 percent share of ASML, like TSMC, because the European firm offered a total 25 percent stake of its issued shares.
“One of the biggest challenges facing integrated circuit scaling today is how to effectively control the escalating wafer manufacturing cost,” TSMC executive vice president and co-chief operating officer Chiang Shang-yi (蔣尚義) said in a company statement.
“We are confident that the additional funding for ASML’s research and development programs will help secure and accelerate the development of EUV in parallel with the necessary focus on improving performance of existing optical lithography tools and speed up the deployment of new technologies for 450-millimeter wafers,” Chiang said.
“This effort will help the industry control wafer cost, and therefore protect the economic viability of Moore’s Law,” he said.
Last month, TSMC chairman and CEO Morris Chang (張忠謀) said the chipmaker did not need to use the advanced EUV equipment until it started making 10-nanometer chips. Now, TSMC is ramping up production of 28-nanometer chips and scheduled to start pilot production of next-generation 20-nanometer chips in the fourth quarter of next year at the earliest.
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