Canon is about to begin constructing a new $345 million plant to build the equipment used in a crucial part of semiconductor manufacturing called lithography.
Lithography is the first step in building chips for everything from microwave ovens to defense systems. The machines involved in this process require incredibly precise steps and equally precise accuracy. It is part of what most people think of when they envision the large white clean rooms in processor manufacturing.
According to Nikkei Asia, which covers the industry and economics of Japan, Canon is expected to invest more than $354 million (Y=50 billion) in this new plant in the Tochigi prefecture, a sum covering the facility’s construction and the equipment to produce these lithographic machines. The company has two plants currently in Japan that produce chips for automotive industries. This new plant will increase the capacity by more than $806 million.
According to Nikkei Asia, sales of semiconductor lithography equipment are “expected to rise 29%, year on year, in 2022 to 180 units, a fourfold increase versus ten years ago.”
The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics reports that the global market for semiconductors passed $500 billion for the first time, and it is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.
Currently, Canon produces 30% of the world’s lithography equipment, which is about half of the closest competitor, ASML. Both Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor announced that they would expand their existing operations.
Nikkei Asia Canon also noted that they will develop next-generation technology, nanoimprint printing lithography. This is due to current equipment’s high costs and energy consumption. Nanoimprinting lithography can handle smaller line widths which will allow for more processing power and a shorter time per chip. Canon is reported to expect 40% lower costs for the new process, as well as a reduction in power consumption by 90%.
The new plant will come online in 2025. It will be located adjacent to an already existing plant. Canon has not created a new lithography plant in 21 years.
There was no comment on whether this new plant would directly benefit the development of chips for the company’s photographic equipment, though with all technologies, advances at the top improve all the processes down the line.
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