ASML Holding NV is showing off its latest chipmaking machine, a 350 million euro (US$380 million) piece of equipment that weighs as much as two Airbus A320s.
Media outlets were given a tour on Friday of the system known as High-NA extreme ultraviolet. Intel Corp has already placed orders for the machine and got the first one shipped to a factory in Oregon in late December. The company plans to start making chips with it late next year.
The machine can print lines on semiconductors 8 nanometers thick, 1.7 times smaller than the previous generation. The thinner the lines, the more transistors you can fit on a chip. And the more transistors you can fit on a chip, the higher the processing speeds and memory.
That is why, ASML executives said, the system will prove essential for artificial intelligence (AI), a technology that is notorious for the intensity of the processing it requires.
AI will need “massive amounts of computing power and data storage. I think without ASML, without our technology, that’s not going to happen,” company chief executive officer Peter Wennink said in an interview with Bloomberg last month. “It’s going to be a big driver for our business.”
ASML is the only company that produces equipment needed to make the most sophisticated semiconductors, and demand for its products is a bellwether for the industry’s health.
The Dutch company last quarter received record orders for its top-of-the-line extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines, showing optimism among the biggest customers for the technology, including Intel, Samsung Electronics Co and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電).
Installation of the first 150,000-kilogram system required 250 crates, 250 engineers and six months to complete, ASML spokesperson Monique Mols said during the press tour of the company headquarters in Veldhoven.
The rise of generative AI over the past year, catalyzed by OpenAI’s ChatGPT launch late 2022, has boosted expectations for semiconductor companies across the board. The so-called low-NA EUV machines, which ASML has been selling since 2018, have a price tag of 170 million euros.
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