a futuristic “Japanese ASML” with which Japan wants to become a chip nation

“We work with our customers to develop technologies that go four generations into the future.” This statement by Nobuto Doi, vice president of Tokyo Electron, is a declaration of intent. When we talk about the photolithography equipment industry, the Dutch company ASML takes center stage. And it deserves it, when we consider that it is currently the only one that has developed UVE lithography machines and their latest and most advanced iteration, UVE High Aperture equipment.

However, there are several Japanese companies that also have significant weight in the lithography equipment market. Among them are Nikon and Canon (the latter has already prepared a review of its nanoimprint lithography machine), but Tokyo Electron is leading the way. In fact, I had the opportunity to visit Intel’s semiconductor plants in Kiryat Gat (Israel) and Penang (Malaysia), and the ASML and Tokyo Electron teams work side by side there.

Tokyo Electron is a leading manufacturer of plasma plating equipment

The Japanese government is determined to force Japan to go against the major powers in the semiconductor industry. And this, of course, is not an unattainable ambition. In fact, Tokyo Electron is an indispensable part of his plan. Now Japan is investing more money in the integrated circuit sector than in the US, Germany, France or the UK. Not in terms of net worth, but their efforts will be greater if we weigh these countries’ investments over their gross domestic product (GDP).

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Tokyo Electron is one of the Japanese companies supported by subsidies approved by the Japanese government

The US allocates 0.21% of its GDP to the semiconductor industry, Germany – 0.41%. France, according to Nikkei Asia, 0.2%, and finally the UK 0.04%. The difference is very significant and highlights the effort Japan is making with 0.71% of GDP. Tokyo Electron is one of the Japanese companies supported by subsidies approved by the Japanese government. In fact, it is building several buildings in Miyagi Prefecture that are expected to be completed in 2025.

The most ambitious project to be implemented at these facilities will consist of the development and production of highly advanced plasma etching equipment. They definitely machines that Nobuto Doi talks about in his statement. These teams are involved in defining the pattern that will then be transferred to the plate. The Japanese company Hitachi also has machines for plasma etching plates, but the leader in this market is Tokyo Electron.

Apparently, the engineers of the latter company work closely with their customers to develop solutions that, according to Doi, will be positioned four generations ahead. However, his plan goes beyond the facilities of Miyagi Prefecture. Tokyo Electron is also building a new plant in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, which will be used to manufacture advanced wafer deposition and logistics equipment. One thing we can be sure of: Tokyo Electron is Japanese ASML. Without it, the ambitious plan developed by the Japanese government for the semiconductor industry would not be viable.

Picture | Tokyo Electron

Additional information | Nikkei Asia

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