July 17, 2012
Intel Makes Deal To Help Extend Moore's Law
|Intel announced a deal recently under which the semiconductor giant could invest more than $4 billion in ASML Holding N.V. to jointly develop the next-generation of 20 nanometer chip-manufacturing technology.|
Intel has agreed to pay about $3.1 billion for 15% of ASML. The deal will allow ASML’s research-and-development efforts and will buy the necessary tools. ASML has also been talking to its two other biggest customers, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation. It is willing to sell 25% of itself in all.
"This funding and participation by a leading semiconductor manufacturer is an acknowledgement of the essential contribution of lithography technology in ensuring the continuation of Moore's Law. Moore's Law, which stipulates that transistor density and microchip performance doubles roughly every 18 months, requires ever-increasing investments by the semiconductor industry, and in particular the equipment industry. We welcome Intel as the first customer to agree to contribute to these investments, the results of which will be available to every semiconductor manufacturer with no restrictions," said Eric Meurice, Chief Executive Officer of ASML. "We hope to be able to announce additional investments by our other customers in the coming weeks."
Of Intel’s research and development money,$860m will go on technology to make chips on silicon wafers 450mm in diameter. Twice as many chips could be cut from these as from today’s biggest, which are 300mm across.
The rest of the cash is for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) technology, which the industry hopes will push the width of circuits below today’s frontier of 20 nanometres (billionths of a metre).
EUV and 450mm are potentially the most important technological changes for the industry for the next 10 to 15 years. Equity and R&D participation by key customers shares the risks and mitigates the margin pressures caused by developing this level of new technology.
This will enable more circuitry to be packed onto smaller chips. With customers taking equity, putting up research money and making advance orders, ASML will be surer of having a market for products that take a lot of time and money to create. It reckons that EUV will cost it and its suppliers $5.3 billion.
Moving to 450mm will require new machines and the reconfiguration of factories. A report in 2005 by VLSI, a research firm, estimated that the shift from 200mm to 300mm wafers a decade ago cost the industry $11.6 billion.
Intel estimates 30% - 40% cost savings and an net benefit to its cost structure with the new technology. These savings will multiply across the industry and the move to 450mm will now be possible sooner. For the industry at large, the non-voting and non-exclusive nature of Intel's participation ensures that these benefits will be spread across the industry.
SOURCE The Economist
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Tags: 20 nanometers, ASML, EUV, extreme ultraviolet, Intel, lithography, Moore's Law, semiconductors
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