• As the successor to extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines, the Twinscan EXE:5200 is developed by the Netherlands-based chipmaking equipment supplier ASML.
  • In 2021, IBM showcased a proof-of-concept chip crafted using an experimental two-nanometer process.

Collaborating on a USD 10 billion project, New York state, IBM Corp., Micron Technology Inc., and other entities joined forces to establish a semiconductor research lab in Albany.
At the heart of the facility, a machine named Twinscan EXE:5200, comparable in size to a truck, will take center stage. Manufactured by ASML Holding NV, the system is anticipated to play a pivotal role in the forthcoming two-nanometer chip manufacturing process, a significant endeavor within the semiconductor industry. IBM, Micron, and other collaborators in the New York research lab construction will leverage it to investigate how chip manufacturers can maximize the potential of the Twinscan EXE:5200.

Situated at the University of Albany’s Albany NanoTech Complex, the facility will be co-located with IBM’s existing research hub operations. Overseeing the construction process, NY CREATES, the nonprofit managing the complex, will coordinate the development of the facility. With the support of one billion dollars in state funds and a minimum of USD 9 billion in private investment, the project is poised for substantial financial backing.

The construction is scheduled to commence in 2024 and is anticipated to conclude within two years. Upon reaching full operational status, the lab will boast 50,000 square feet of cleanroom space to accommodate semiconductor manufacturing equipment. In addition to IBM and Micron, chipmaking equipment suppliers Applied Materials Inc. and Tokyo Electron Ltd., alongside other organizations, will utilize the facility for collaborative research and development efforts.

Arvind Krishna, the Chief Executive Officer of IBM, said, “The new High NA EUV Center at Albany NanoTech will secure a strong pipeline for semiconductor innovation, keeping New York State at the center of semiconductor expertise, accelerating the growth of the global chip industry and helping to meet manufacturing demand for new technologies such as generative AI.”

The installation of the Twinscan EXE:5200 system in the facility is estimated to exceed USD 300 million in costs. As the successor to extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines, the Twinscan EXE:5200 is developed by the Netherlands-based chipmaking equipment supplier ASML. ASML’s EUV machines are instrumental in crafting the fastest and most energy-efficient processors.

Like ASML’s existing EUV systems, the EXE:5200 vaporizes a small quantity of tin numerous times per second, generating consistent laser pulses. Utilizing those laser pulses, the EXE:5200 intricately carves transistor-shaped patterns into silicon wafers, creating operational circuits.

The primary distinction between the two ASML machine generations lies in their resolution. The present-generation EUV systems achieve maximum accuracy in carving transistor patterns at 13 nanometers. The EXE:5200 boasts an enhanced 8-nanometer resolution, allowing for the production of smaller, more power-efficient transistors compared to the current-generation EUV systems.

Smaller transistors facilitate the development of faster chips. In 2021, IBM showcased a proof-of-concept chip crafted using an experimental two-nanometer process. The company projected that the technology could enable the development of processors up to 45% faster or 75% more power-efficient than the most advanced silicon available on the market.

IBM produced the two-nanometer chip using a current-generation EUV machine. While it’s feasible to manufacture two-nanometer processors using EUV gear, the current approach may not be conducive to cost-effective mass production. The anticipated installation of the Twinscan EXE:5200 machine in the upcoming Albany chip research lab is expected to enable efficient high-volume manufacturing.

Achieving accurate two-nanometer transistors on a silicon wafer with an EUV machine typically requires three or four attempts. In contrast, the Twinscan EXE:5200 accomplishes this task with just one pass, significantly enhancing its capability to produce more processors in the same timeframe. The heightened manufacturing pace boosts the quantity of two-nanometer processors a chipmaker can produce and reduces overall costs.

Upon its online debut, the forthcoming Albany chip lab will emerge as the first and only publicly owned research hub in the U.S. equipped with a Twinscan EXE:5200. Earlier this year, Intel Corp. was working on another similar machine at its chip fabrication facility in Oregon. In October, the company revealed its intention to install the Twinscan EXE:5200 by the end of the year.

Initially, Intel planned to deploy Twinscan EXE:5200 systems for an upcoming manufacturing process called Intel 18A. The process incorporates a transistor design known as the gate-all-around (GAA) architecture, a choice adopted by competing chipmakers. Initially scheduled for online deployment in 2025, Intel 18A is now poised to commence mass production next year.

In September, the company disclosed that it had revised its plans and no longer intends to mass-produce Intel 18A chips using EXE:5200 machines. Instead, the company will utilize the upcoming manufacturing process solely to test and validate the machines, with future use in mind. The company’s mass-production plans for the EXE:5200 are now focused on a forthcoming manufacturing process named Intel Next, scheduled to launch after Intel 18A.