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Tuesday, 18 March 2014 13:08

ASML pulls plug on new generation of computer chips

Written by Nick Farrell



No future

One of the world's top suppliers to the computer chip industry has decided to stop developing machines for a new generation of computer chips.

ASML will not develop equipment that could handle a new type of larger wafer being tested at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany. The industry currently makes chips using 12-inch, or 300-millimeter, wafers. The move will deeply embarrass plan by Governor Andrew Cuomo which involved Intel, Samsung, Taiwan Semiconductor, GlobalFoundries and IBM to fund a pilot manufacturing line in Albany that is using much larger wafers that measure 450 millimeters, or about 18 inches, across.

The Global 450 Consortium, has committed about $825 million over five years to the project, a little more than half that from their equipment suppliers. New York State also pledged $200 million. Work has been progressing on creating what is the world's first chip factory using the larger wafers in a new $365 million cleanroom facility at the NanoCollege. While ASML’s competitor Nikon has been involved in the project, ASML has had shedloads of cash chucked at it to develop equipment that could handle 450mm wafers.

But according to ASML's annual report to shareholders, $770 million that Intel was supposed to be providing to ASML for 450mm development as part of that investment may be spent on other technical projects instead. ASML's decision has raised questions about how committed certain members of the G450C are to moving the industry to the new technology. Several media reports have suggested that Intel and perhaps Samsung have been getting cold feet over the move away from 300mm since chip factories are so expensive to build.

Nick Farrell

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