The semiconductor industry is under enormous stress. The global demand for chips is growing by leaps and bounds and, although they are being manufactured and sold more than ever, the deficit is still present so that many electronic device manufacturers do not have enough chips to maintain the production levels in normal parameters. This translates into difficulties in buying some products.
We have already seen it over the last two years. Consoles, mobiles, computers, TVs and even cars that have not been as easy to get as before. But the main players in this industry, which in 2021 had a turnover of 555.9 billion dollars, have not stood idly by. The announcements of investments in new factories have not been lacking, and today two Asian companies are taking an important step in this direction.
In recent times we have talked several times about TSMC and ASML in the semiconductor industry. These are the leading companies in the sector. The first in chip manufacturing and the second in manufacturing photolithography equipment (a key element for chip manufacturing). Samsung Electronics and Canonwho are ranked second in their respective categories, will do their best to take them on.
Ready, Set, Go!
According to Reuters, Samsung Electronics plans triple its semiconductor production capacity by 2027. The manufacturer’s roadmap states that it will begin mass manufacturing of 2-nanometer chips in 2025 and advance to 1.4-nanometer chips in 2027. In this way, it will seek to meet the needs of industries such as high-end computing performance (supercomputers) and artificial intelligence.
The South Korean company appears to be serious about its plans to take on TSMC. Much of Samsung Electronics’ new ambitions rest on its new plant in Taylor, Texas, which required an investment of $17 billion and will employ 2,000 skilled workers. Of course, as we can see, the tangible results will take years to arrive. Production will start in the second half of 2024.
And, even if the manufacturing building is ready by those dates, there is one essential component that may limit your plans. This has to do with the photolithographic equipment necessary for the production of advanced chips. This technology is in the hands, mainly, of the company from the Netherlands, ASML. But the limited number of these computers on the market translates into a lower capacity of factories to produce chips.
This is where the second player in this article – and in the global photolithography industry – comes into play, Canon. The Japanese company, which controls 30% of the global market of this equipment in volume, has defined two clear movements that will mark its destiny in the coming years: develop a next-generation technology called “nanoimprint photolithography” to deal with ASML and build a new factory.
According to Nikkei Asia, photolithography equipment sales are forecast to grow by about 29% each year and Canon wants its share of the pie. To do this, it will invest 345 million dollars in its first new plant in 21 years. It will be located in Tochigi prefecture. Construction will start in 2023 and it will start producing photolithography equipment in 2025.
Regarding new generation photolithography equipment, Canon expects that they will consume up to 90% less power than ASML equivalents and that reduce manufacturing costs by up to 40%. It is, without a doubt, an interesting promise, but the company from the Netherlands is already working on the next great technological advance that will arrive in 2025. As we can see, we are still far from seeing who is the winner of this race.
Pictures | Canyon
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism