Crucial chipmaking machines in short supply for two more years

By | March 21, 2022

The global chip shortage doesn’t appear likely to end any time soon. The manufacturer of crucial chipmaking machines has warned that its kit will be in short supply for another two years.

That’s particularly bad news for Intel as it seeks to play catch-up with the capabilities of Apple’s M1 chips …

The Financial Times reports.

ASML’s machines are used to etch circuits into silicon wafers. “It is the single most critical company in the semiconductor supply chain,” said Richard Windsor, tech analyst at Radio Free Mobile. “It is the printing press of silicon chips” […]

The warning comes from Peter Wennink, chief executive of ASML, which dominates the global market for the lithography machines used to make advanced semiconductors.

“Next year and the year after there will be shortages,” Wennink said. “We’re going to ship more machines this year than last year and … more machines next year than this year. But it will not be enough if we look at the demand curve. We really need to step up our capacity significantly more than 50 per cent. That will take time.’

The highly advanced machines cost around $150M each. Part of the reason it will take time is the lead-time on the advanced components required. For example, the precision lenses made by Carl Zeiss: the production line is already operating at maximum capacity, so it too needs to build more lines.

“They need to make significantly more lenses,” Wennink said. But first the company would have to “build clean rooms; they need to start asking for permits; they need to start organising the building of a new factory. Once a factory is ready, they need to order the manufacturing equipment; they need to hire people. And then … it takes more than 12 months to make the lens.”

Although Intel has known for years that Apple was working on its own CPUs, the American company was taken by surprise by the extreme capabilities of the new Mac chips – especially the combination of performance and power efficiency. The lack of availability of the advanced machinery needed to compete means that it could be years before the company is even in a position to properly try.

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