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The Canon Machine That Should Concern U.S. Lawmakers Will Begin Shipping This Year or Next

Last October we told you about Canon’s nanoimprint lithography (NIL) technology that stamps the circuitry design onto a silicon wafer instead of etching it like ASML’s extreme ultraviolet (EUV) machines do. The Financial Times (via Tom’sHardware) says that Canon has been working on this technology for 15 years and because it doesn’t use lasers to create the pattern on a wafer, the process uses as much as 90% less power than a traditional EUV machine.

NIL technology can be used to build chips using a 5nm process node and eventually, it could be used to help produce 2nm chips. The lithography machine is important when it comes to chip manufacturing due to the billions of transistors that are found inside a chip. For example, the 3nm A17 Pro chipset inside the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max carries 19 billion transistors. Circuitry patterns etched on wafers must be extremely thin.

Here’s why U.S. lawmakers could be sweating bullets over Canon’s NIL machine. Currently, ASML, the only company in the world that makes EUV machines, is not allowed to ship these machines to China. It can and does deliver some of its deep ultraviolet machines (DUV) to the country. However, without the ability to obtain an EUV machine, China’s largest foundry, SMIC, will not be able to build chips past the 7nm node it used to produce the 5G Kirin 9000s SoC used to power the Huawei Mate 60 series.

This is important because as the process node number drops, the transistors used on these chips become smaller allowing more of them to be shoehorned inside a chip. And the larger the number of transistors inside a chip, the more powerful and/or energy-efficient that chip is.

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