In an industry first, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
But this is actually a big, investable deal from several angles. Let me explain a couple of 'em.
In a big, sweeping sense, usable EUV lithography is an absolute requirement for upcoming generations of semiconductor technology. To put this march of progress into context, the original Intel
Nearly 20 years later, Intel's high-end processors come with about 2.5 billion transistors and 32 nanometer trace widths. In other words, a modern CPU made with Pentium-era manufacturing technology would be over a foot tall and wide, fraught with overheating problems, and sucking power like a rack of stadium lights.
Making processors ever smaller, faster, and more efficient will always require finer manufacturing technologies. Here, TSMC is doing some heavy lifting for the whole industry by evaluating every available solution to the EUV challenge.
The finer resolution of EUV manufacturing will come into play with the 14-nanometer process, two generations ahead of today's state-of-the-art. EUV beam systems are available from KLA-Tencor
The winner will take that stamp of approval to Intel, to Texas Instruments
Moreover, the success of these tests -- or lack thereof -- will help set the tone for long-term semiconductor growth. In order to keep on making better and faster chips, the manufacturing technology must keep pace. For that reason, anyone with a long-term interest in the chip sector should keep a close watch on this low-key drama.
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