On 13th October 2023, the Japanese company Canon announced their FPA-1200NZ2C Lithography Machine, capable of producing advanced 5nm semi-conductor chips, possibly down to 2nm, according to Canon. The Japanese company, which makes optical equipment, claims that its “nanoimprint” lithography machine can etch the very smallest transistors used in the most advanced microchips.
But wait a minute… first things first! What is a Lithography Machine? I guess it is time to know more than just turning on your TVs or Computers at home!
A Lithography Machine is a Machine used to implement a Lithographic process for making microchips. It involves using light to print patterns of microchip designs on semi-conductor crystals, and later etching out the area without the design patterns. The area that is left is the actual integrated Circuits design.
Easier said than done! This technology is so complex and involves the highest level of “Wizardry” from another planet that only one company in the whole world knows how to make it. And it is under license from American universities. Now that’s really scary and dangerous!
The only company in the world that could make these advanced machines, before Canon surprisingly showed up on stage, was ASML. This is a Dutch company at the heart of U.S. chip sanctions against China. ASML itself does not produce microchips, motherboards, any stuff that relates to chips, etc, it only makes Lithography Machines. This is how to remain true to your calling!
But who is Canon? Canon is a Japanese household name brand, known globally for its printers and cameras. And since all these machines use lights to work, one may say that Canon is an expert at Optics.
ASML EUV Machine VS Canon’s FPA-1200NZ2C Machine
ASML uses Extreme UltraViolet Light to print chips while Canon says it can use light of any wavelength in what is called NanoImprint Lithography (NIL). Canon said its machine does not require a light source with a special wavelength, therefore reducing power consumption.
Canon has been developing its nanoimprint lithography (NIL) technology since 2004. Canon’s technology had no acceptance earlier, that’s partly because the EUV machines, like those made by ASML, have worked better during the chip printing process.
ASML machines cost about $250m, while the price for the Canon machine is not known yet.