Canon, the Japanese multinational company famous for its printers and cameras, introduced a groundbreaking solution on Oct. 13, aimed at advancing the production of cutting-edge semiconductor components. The newly unveiled “nanoimprint lithography” system is Canon’s response to ASML, the dominant player in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machine sector. ASML’s machinery is crucial for manufacturing state-of-the-art chips, including those utilized in the latest Apple iPhones.
The utilization of such machines has become embroiled in the technological conflict between the United States and China. The United States, through export restrictions and various sanctions, has sought to impede China’s access to critical chips and manufacturing machinery, hindering the progress of the world’s second-largest economy in this area.
ASML’s EUV technology has gained significant popularity among leading chip manufacturers due to its role in enabling the production of semiconductors at 5 nanometers and below. The nanometer measurement refers to the size of chip features, with smaller values accommodating more features on a chip, thereby enhancing semiconductor performance.
Canon announced its latest system, the FPA-1200NZ2C, which can produce semiconductors matching a 5nm process and even scale down to 2nm. This surpasses the capabilities of the A17 Pro chip found in Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, which utilizes a 3nm semiconductor.
Due to the critical role of ASML’s lithography machines in the production of cutting-edge semiconductor chips, the Dutch government has imposed restrictions on their export to China, resulting in no shipments to date. With Canon’s claim that their new machine can facilitate the production of 2nm semiconductors, it is expected to come under increased scrutiny.
In related news, the Biden administration is targeting a loophole that has allowed developers in China to procure chips from the renowned Huaqiangbei electronics area in Shenzhen, a major city in southern China. Meanwhile, China has introduced draft security regulations for companies providing generative artificial intelligence (AI) services, including restrictions on data sources used for training AI models.
As the semiconductor industry becomes increasingly competitive and technologically advanced, companies like Canon and ASML play a crucial role in enabling the development and production of cutting-edge chips. Keeping up with the demand for more powerful semiconductors remains essential for the advancement of various industries, from smartphones and computers to automotive and healthcare sectors. The ongoing technological conflict between the United States and China adds further complexity to the landscape, with export restrictions and sanctions affecting the global supply chain. Consequently, innovations like Canon’s nanoimprint lithography system are likely to shape the competition and future of the semiconductor industry.