Canon has announced the creation of a special lithography system for chips

Canon has announced the creation of a special lithography system for chips

Canon announced the creation of the latest system of “nanoimprint lithography” FPA-1200NZ2C. The company is positioning this technology as an alternative to the expensive and complex EUV systems currently dominated by Dutch firm ASML Holding NV, ReadWrite reports.

ASML’s EUV technology is popular among chip manufacturers because of its key role in the production of semiconductors at 5 nanometers and below. The number in nanometers means the size of the microcircuit elements. The smaller this number, the more functions the microcircuit can accommodate, therefore, the power of the semiconductor increases.

According to Canon’s announcement, the nanoimprint machines can produce 5nm chips, which corresponds to the state-of-the-art EUV level.

The company predicts that improvements in printing materials and overlay alignment could increase resolution to 2nm, making Canon a leader in next-generation chip manufacturing. This is a significant step for the Japanese technology giant.

Unlike the complex use of high-powered EUV lasers, nanoimprinting prints nanoscale circuit patterns directly onto silicon wafers using a mold-like stamp. Canon believes that this simpler mechanical printing process will provide a cheaper and more affordable option for chip makers.

“Because the circuit pattern transfer process does not go through an optical mechanism, the thin circuit patterns on the mask can be accurately reproduced on the wafer. Thus, complex 2D or 3D circuit patterns can be formed in a single print,” explains Canon.

This differs from the photolithography techniques used by ASML, which involve passing a specific wavelength of light through photomasks to etch features onto a pattern layer on a wafer. The ultimate goal is to create complex, high-density circuits on chip arrays.

In addition, according to Bloomberg, the new technology could allow it to bypass current US restrictions on exporting EUV systems to China.

Semiconductors are a central aspect of the technology battle between the US and China because of their critical nature in areas such as artificial intelligence and military applications. The Dutch government has banned ASML from exporting its EUV lithography machines because the technology is key to the creation of state-of-the-art chips.

Now that Canon says its new technology can help chipmakers make the equivalent of 2nm semiconductors, it’s sure to come under scrutiny from regulators

In 2014, Canon bought Molecular Imprints, which is considered a pioneer of Nanoimprint lithography, and since then has been actively developing the technology for almost 10 years. Canon is now building its first new lithography plant in two decades outside Tokyo. The equipment will start coming off the new conveyor in 2025.

Read also on ProIT: Shares of NVIDIA and AMD fall due to the ban on the export of AI chips to China.

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