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China will never get its paws on Taiwan’s chipmaking machines

by on23 May 2024

Invaders would find gear disabled.

Should the Chinese ever attempt to take control of Taiwan, they will not be able to seize the most advanced chip-making technology from ASML.

Bloomberg reports that ASML has devised a method to render its machines inoperative remotely.

According to two sources, ASML has given assurances to US officials regarding its capability to deactivate the machines from afar, following discussions with the Dutch government about the potential threat. The Netherlands has conducted simulations of an invasion to evaluate the associated risks more accurately, they mentioned.

The remote deactivation feature is specific to the ASML-manufactured extreme ultraviolet machines in the Netherlands, commonly referred to as EUVs, with TSMC being the largest client for these. EUVs utilise high-frequency light waves to etch the tiniest transistors on microchips — producing chips that are employed in artificial intelligence as well as sensitive military technology.

An EUV, roughly the size of a city bus, necessitates routine maintenance and software updates. In line with this, ASML can remotely initiate a shutdown, effectively serving as a kill switch, stated the informants, who requested anonymity. The company, headquartered in Veldhoven, is the sole producer of these machines globally, each fetching a price upwards of €200 million ($217 million).

ASML's technology has consistently been the focus of governmental measures designed to prevent its acquisition by undesirable entities. For example, the Netherlands has banned the sale of EUV machines to China, due to concerns from the US that such a move could provide a competitive advantage to a rival in the international semiconductor competition.

Last modified on 23 May 2024
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