High-NA chips: Intel’s latest exposure system is ready

Intel Foundry announces the completion of construction work on the first “production-ready” exposure machine with extreme ultraviolet wavelengths and high numerical aperture (High NA EUV). It comes from ASML and is located at Intel’s research semiconductor factory in Hillsboro, Oregon (“D1X”). The calibration is now starting; next year it will expose up to 220 wafers per hour.


The goal is to produce chips in even smaller structures (less than 2 nanometers or 20 angstroms). This reduces power consumption and allows more transistors to be accommodated in the same area. The new system can also expose with higher contrast, which reduces exposure time. So that speeds up production.

The wavelength during exposure is 13.5 nanometers, which does not occur naturally on Earth. The system produces this extreme ultraviolet light by heating tin to an unimaginable 220,000 degrees Celsius using a laser. According to Intel, that’s 40 times the average surface temperature of the Sun. Please don’t try this at home. The light generated is reflected by a mask that represents the desired circuit pattern and then directed onto the silicon wafer by particularly precise mirrors from Zeiss. These mirrors have refraction angles that reduce the resolution from 13.5 to 8 nm.

The Dutch company ASML is so far the only one that has mastered this technology. The system is called Twinscan EXE:5000 and cost 350 million euros. It was delivered from the Netherlands in 43 containers and weighs more than 150 tons. Intel is the launch customer for EXE:5000 and has already ordered the successor model EXE:5200B. Readers interested in buying will have to give Intel priority.

With the first delivery, Intel has a lead over TSMC, Samsung and other chip manufacturers. Traditionally, ASML only delivers a handful of the highly sought-after new exposure machines from a completely new generation in the first year and then scales up production.


April 18, 2024,

10:50 p.m


Corrected the description of the light path.


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