Russia Strikes Back: Against All Odds, Its First EUV Photolithography Machine Is Ready

  • Russia plans to have an EUV lithography machine capable of manufacturing 7 nm chips by 2028.

  • At a cost of approximately $55,000, the country's 350 nm EUV lithography machine is considerably inexpensive.

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The global media has an eye on every move the Chinese government makes to bolster its integrated circuit industry. Given the current tension between the country led by Xi Jinping on one side, and the U.S. and its allies on the other, it's perfectly understandable that China is the center of attention. Russia, on the other hand, has been relatively overlooked in this area. However, the country's recent announcement remind us that it shouldn’t be.

Vasily Shpak, Russia's deputy minister of industry and trade, revealed during the "Digital Industry of Industrial Russia" conference that his country’s first extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photolithography machine was ready. We don’t yet know the technological foundations of this machine–and Russia may never release this information–but the technology it relies on is presumably not too different from that used by ASML in their own EUV lithography machine.

This Prototype Can Manufacture 350 NM Chips–but Russia Won’t Stop There

EUV lithography machines are very complex. In the case of ASML, it took the Dutch company more than two decades to have a fully functional machine equipped with this technology, and that was with the financial and technological backing of its top clients. In 2012, Intel invested $4 billion to help fund the development of this chip manufacturing machine. The complexity explains why China doesn’t have its own EUV lithography machine yet, and the fact that Russia already has a prototype ready is nothing short of amazing.

Furthermore, Shpak confirmed that its construction is entirely Russian. More importantly, he stated that this first EUV machine can manufacture 350 nm integrated circuits. This might not sound like a big deal, considering that the Taiwan's TSMC and South Korea's Samsung are manufacturing 3 nm semiconductors with ASML’s EUV machine; however, the crucial point here is that Russia now has the necessary technology to develop these photolithography machines.

As such, their engineers and physicists can gradually refine their technology to enable the production of more advanced integrated circuits, and that's exactly what the Russian government intends to do. Their roadmap states that by 2026, the country should have a prototype EUV lithography machine that’s capable of manufacturing 130 nm chips, and another similar machine, capable of producing 7 nm integrated circuits, by 2028. At first glance, that sounds like an overly ambitious plan, but it would be unwise to underestimate the capabilities of Russian physicists and engineers. We’ll see what happens.

Regardless, if Russia eventually manages to have an EUV lithography machine capable of making 7 nm integrated circuits by 2028, it will be alarmingly close to the U.S. and its allies in this field. With this technology, it's possible to produce cutting-edge chips that can be used in smartphones, computers, servers, and telecommunications equipment. In addition, and let’s not forget, in state-of-the-art weapons.

Moreover, Ijiwei, the Chinese media outlet specialized in semiconductors that obtained this information, claims that this first Russian lithography machine is much cheaper than an ASML EUV machine: While the Dutch alternative cost approximately $180 million, the Russian machine’s cost hovers at around $55,000. The difference is staggering.

More information | DigiTimes Asia

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