The Chip Insider® – SMEE: is it competitive? Decoding ASML names.

Author: G. Dan Hutcheson

The Chip Insider® – SMEE: is it competitive? Decoding ASML names.


SMEE’s 193nm Immersion Tool: Is it competitive? 2023 came to an end with a hot close for China’s technology industry. In September TechInsights broke the news that Huawei had built a smartphone with its own 7nm chip designs fabricated on wafers made by SMIC. In December, a post that indicated the long-awaited SSA800-Series was ready for primetime… But then, just as mysteriously as it appeared … WeChat comments about the tool were purged.

The SSA800 has been long-awaited because this ArFi tool was … The SSA800 193-immersion tool is said to be 28nm capable. This may be why its mention was so quickly censored…

What is known about SMEE’s business model is that it has tried to mirror ASML’s network model. The primary difference is …

So how competitive are they? … my closest estimate is the SSA800 would need to be sold for a small fraction of the price of an equivalent ASML tool to be COO competitive in manufacturing on a single tool basis, and a tenth of that on a VOO basis (Value of Ownership at a Cost-per-Good-Die-level). These numbers may sound overly aggressive. But I believe they could be optimistic given...

What about EUV? There is a general belief that ... The counter argument… In contrast, ASML was founded in 1984 and raced past the best competitors in the world to claim the summit of lithography’s Everest: EUV. ASML had nowhere near the funding. Today, it is theirs to lose. I rest my case.

Decoding ASML lithography tool names: Ever wonder if there was an easy way to decode ASML's scanner names into good-better-best categories? Here's how:

ASML's internal codename for what became the first TWINSCAN® platform was Atlas. Hence all tools of this genre start with AT (ATlas), which were dry DUV.

The next generation platform developed for immersion was designated the XT, conveniently dropping the A, adding an X, while keeping the T. Did marketing … Actually, as if it were a homage to Moore’s Law, the AT had to be shrunk to better fit into 200 mm fabs, which were being transitioned to 300mm. That’s why they needed the neXT platform. ASML’s employees also hid a joke in the XT name... You're on a roll if you guessed that … So why did they drop the N for an E with the EXE EUV platform? If you guessed Extreme ultra-violet, you got it right.

The backstory on ATLAS: ATLAS stands for “ASML Technology for Large Area Substrates”. It turned out the ATLAS name was trademarked … ASML’s Atlas history is like that of the Porsche 901, which had to be renamed to 911 because Peugeot had trademarked 901. In both cases, look at which turned out to be more memorable!

The two lessons here are 1) brand never makes product great. Great product makes a brand great. Brand only makes them memorable...

“A good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan tomorrow” — General George S. Patton

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