Intel Initiates Advanced Manufacturing In Europe With EUV

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Gearing up to introduce the “Meteor Lake” chip, this move sets the stage for next-generation artificial intelligence (AI)-driven PCs.

Intel Corp. is initiating high-volume manufacturing using Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines at its $18.5 billion plant in Leixlip, just outside Dublin, Ireland. Heralding this as a “landmark” development, the company aims to re-establish its prominence in the chip-making industry, facing stiff competition primarily from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC).

With two manufacturing processes finalised and the third one swiftly approaching, the subsequent two are also making impressive strides. This Leixlip-based plant will be the birthplace of Intel’s upcoming “Meteor Lake” chip, geared for laptops. This chip sets the stage for AI-powered personal computers. The company’s newly integrated EUV tools have been spotlighted for their precision. To put it in perspective, they are so precise that they could theoretically aim a laser pointer to hit a human thumb from the moon. These tools will be instrumental for Intel’s ambitious roadmap, where the company aspires to roll out five technological generations within four years.

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The EUV machines crafted by Dutch manufacturer Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography (ASML) are integral to this operation. These gigantic machines, equivalent to a bus, are priced at around $150 million each. With seven of such machines already stationed at the plant, they work alongside an array of overhead robots, comparable in price to a standard BMW. These robots seamlessly traverse a 22km track, transferring silicon wafers between different tools.

Anticipating future advancements, the company looks forward to acquiring its inaugural next-gen EUV lithography machine, the High-NA EUV, in Oregon later this year. Notably, it’s ASML again at the helm of manufacturing this machinery. Typically, the company refines its manufacturing processes at an R&D hub in Hillsboro, Oregon, before cascading the finalised techniques across its other establishments. Expanding its European footprint, the company has unveiled plans for a substantial chip complex in Germany and another assembly and test facility in Poland. These endeavours are poised to leverage the EU’s relaxed funding regulations and subsidies, mirroring the EU’s strategic shift to reduce its reliance on the U.S. and Asian chip supplies.

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