les USA veulent priver la Chine des précieuses machines néerlandaises

les USA veulent priver la Chine des précieuses machines néerlandaises



Not only are the Americans already preventing Dutch ASML from selling its EUV machines in China, but the Biden government wants to extend this ban to immersion DUV machines. The goal ? Slow down China’s development and prevent the country from accumulating too much production capacity.

The US government is reportedly putting pressure on the Dutch authorities to prevent the ASML company from selling its “classic” lithography machines to Chinese companies. After having succeeded in blocking the sale of the latest generation scanners (or steppers) in extreme ultraviolet rays (EUV), Joe Biden’s government would like ASML, the only one to produce this type of cutting-edge machine, but also the world’s number 1 sector, purely and simply ceases to sell its machines, even old generation ones (DUV for deep ultraviolet rays).

If the reason is simple on paper – to slow down China in its development of its chip production sector and prevent it from taking too much market share – the mechanisms of this “war” of semiconductors are complex. And the scope of the decisions is far from anecdotal: according to an analyst interviewed by Bloomberg who tells the story, ” lithography equipment is the most difficult to replace in the semiconductor production chain. Without access to foreign DUV engraving machines (especially the most advanced models, read below), the development of the Chinese chip industry could come to a halt “. Why is the US raising its voice and wanting to go further in its technological blockade against China?

China spends money

China is buying DUV steppers en masse © Bloomberg

Since Huaweigate and Huawei’s ban on access to TSMC’s state-of-the-art factories in Taiwan, China has understood that its access to engraving technologies was subject to the goodwill of the American government, at the time led by the President D. Trump. When Huawei and Chinese companies wanted to develop their own domestic production capacities to do without TSMC and Samsung, the Americans went further: they asked the Dutch government to qualify EUV engraving at the heart of the NXE:3400C scanner as a technology. strategic. And thus require an export license, which the Dutch government has undertaken to the USA not to issue to any Chinese company.

Against bad luck and good heart, the various Chinese players – with the blessing of their government – ​​have started to buy older generation DUV machines… in droves. New or used, groups like SMIC have scoured the planet to get their hands on steppers which, of course, cannot burn in 5 nm, but which can already (as Intel has proven) go up to 10 nm , or even 7 nm as recently proven by SMIC. And when we say raked the planet, it’s not an empty word: just on new machines, China spent 29.45 billion euros in 2021, ahead of South Korea and Taiwan – for comparison , the Americans spent 7.5 billion euros and all European countries… 3.3 billion.

Don’t let China accumulate “mass”

The component shortage that has lasted for two years now has highlighted the fact that all markets need chips. And only IT markets – smartphones, PCs, tablets, consoles, etc. – really need EUV etching. For the time being, from refrigerators to cars, including fighter planes and elevators, the bulk of the volumes of chips produced are produced using DUV, a more traditional process, less fine, but also much less expensive and very suitable for large volumes.

ASML Immersion DUV Scanners
Credits: ASML

By asking the Dutch to stop the sale of ASML’s DUV steppers, the Americans want to limit China’s rise in mass production, an area in which the country has naturally become very strong over the past three decades. Because the Americans have the example of TSMC: it is because the Taiwanese has developed its know-how by producing increasingly large volumes that it has been able to acquire such know-how. If the Chinese constitute such a powerful production apparatus, they will lead even more quickly to the creation of an ecosystem (r&d, theses, companies, etc.) capable, in the long term, of giving birth locally to domestic EUV machines. And at that time, the ASML embargo will be useless.

If ASML is the only one to produce EUV machines, it is not the only one to produce DUV machines will you tell me? Well no… but almost. The Biden government is trying to block the sale of the cutting-edge DUV machines, the ones that allowed Intel and others to reach the physical limits of this technology: the so-called immersion DUV machines. And, here again, ASML is the king of these steppers, since it controls 95% of the market, leaving Nikon only crumbs. Moreover, given the special relationship between the USA and Japan, and the naturally tense relationship between Japan and China, it should be very easy to prevent Nikon from selling its few machines – and if so, the volumes remain weak.

If the Americans have their way, China will once again find itself limited in its access to irreplaceable advanced technologies. Thus limiting the speed of its technological development. A development that has gone, in the eyes of Westerners, from necessary to dangerous.

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