Japanese lithographic equipment manufacturers want to maintain their position after switching to EUV, but it will be difficult
In the context of the transition of the semiconductor industry to the use of lithography with ultrahard ultraviolet radiation (EUV), ASML holding equipment from the Netherlands is most often mentioned, but suppliers of accessories and materials from Japan are also not going to give way to a promising market to competitors. Now they control 31.3% of the market for this equipment.
Over the past two decades, as noted by the Nikkei Asian Review with reference to SEMI statistics, Japanese semiconductor manufacturing equipment suppliers held about 30% of the global market, and last year it rose to 31.3%. The transition to EUV lithography is associated not only with an increase in costs, but also with a change in the competitive environment – consolidation is also observed here. For example, Nikon and Canon have already dropped out of the competition under pressure from ASML, in a difficult situation is the manufacturer of light sources for lithographic equipment Gigaphoton.
Tokyo Electron is the third largest lithographic machine manufacturer; by March 2021, the Japanese company intends to invest in research and development of at least $ 1.25 billion in the hope of success in the coming era of EUV lithography. Last year, the manufacturer of laser mask quality control equipment Lasertec more than doubled the volume of orders related to EUV technology. Tokyo Electron also supplies chemicals for coating silicon wafers before etching; now the company has full control over the supply of substances used in processing silicon wafers using EUV. Tokyo Electron intends to spend at least 10% of its annual revenue on developing this business line.
It is expected that the transition to EUV lithography will inevitably reduce the number of market players, as the technological complexity of products and equipment increases, and associated costs increase. Mergers and acquisitions will be a sure sign of industry consolidation, new alliances will arise. It’s enough to recall that ASML holding set up the production of EUV scanners, too, “helped the whole world”: for a while Intel, TSMC and Samsung became the most interested customers as shareholders of the company. As a result, Intel invested the most, but still could not justify these costs, since EUV-lithography is going to be introduced later than its main competitors – only by the end of 2021.