Chinese chip manufacturers are having greater difficulties in obtaining lithography systems for the manufacture of semiconductors. After months of talks, the Netherlands is joining the US export controls, which particularly affects the world market leader ASML: The company will need exceptional licenses in the future to be allowed to sell lithography systems to China, even with older exposure technology.
The new export restrictions has Liesje Schreinemacher announced in an official letter to the Dutch Parliament; she is the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands. Her ministry wants to introduce the changes before the start of summer.
EUV is followed by DUV ban
Previously, ASML was not allowed to supply lithography systems to Chinese chip makers like SMIC that use extreme ultraviolet (EUV) exposure. The new export restrictions will in future include machines that work with deep ultraviolet light (DUV) with a wavelength of 193 instead of 13.5 nanometers.
Corresponding lithography systems are required for old and new manufacturing processes – including the current 3 nm generation, in which only part of the layers are still exposed with EUV. SMIC’s state-of-the-art manufacturing process with 7nm structures exclusively uses DUV machines. The company cannot increase production capacity without new lithography systems.
The German companies Trumpf and Zeiss, among others, supply lasers and optics to ASML for production. However, the short- to medium-term economic effects should be limited – after all, ASML is fully booked for years, so it cannot deliver as many machines as TSMC, Samsung, SK Hynix, Intel & Co. are ordering.
On behalf of the Ministry of Commerce, Schreinemacher names three goals that it wants to achieve with the export restrictions:
- Preventing the contribution of Dutch goods to undesirable end-uses, e.g. B. military use or in weapons of mass destruction;
- avoidance of undesirable long-term strategic dependencies; and
- Maintaining Dutch technology leadership.
ASML and China are currently not explicitly mentioned, but the intentions are obvious as there are no other Dutch manufacturers of lithography systems. The letter states: “The additional national export control measures concern very specific technologies in the semiconductor production cycle, where the Netherlands holds a unique and leading position, such as the state-of-the-art Deep Ultra Violet (DUV) immersion lithography.”
The US has been pushing for semiconductor export restrictions from the Netherlands and Japan since 2022. The Reuters news agency reports using internal sourcesthat Japan will soon follow suit.
In the meantime, the Netherlands are taking a two-pronged approach to their own restrictions. On the one hand, they suggest multilateral agreements within the Wassenaar Agreement, but do not expect a consensus with Russia as a member. On the other hand, a national control list is established by a public ministerial regulation in accordance with EU law.