Shipping in 2024-2025: Canon’s NIL Tech Democratizes Chip Production

In October last year, Canon announced the development of its lithography equipment FPA-1200NZ2C using Nanoimprint Lithography (NIL), heralding a novel path for small semiconductor manufacturers to produce advanced chips. Recently, Hiroaki Takeishi, a Canon executive leading the development of this new lithography machine, revealed in an interview that the FPA-1200NZ2C is scheduled to ship between 2024 and 2025.

Diverging from conventional lithography that utilizes optical image projection to transfer microstructures onto silicon wafers, nanoimprint lithography, akin to printing technology, involves direct replication through a template to imprint patterns. Canon, having developed nanoimprint technology for over 15 years, aims to reduce costs and enhance energy efficiency with this innovative approach.

According to Canon, the power consumption of nanoimprint lithography equipment is 90% lower than ASML’s EUV lithography equipment, and the investment cost is about 40% of EUV lithography equipment. The new nanoimprint lithography equipment can manufacture 5nm chips and is projected to advance to 2nm process nodes. Canon clarifies that nanoimprint lithography equipment is not meant to replace existing EUV and DUV tools but to coexist with them, capable of producing both logic chips and 3D NAND flash memory chips.

With the semiconductor market’s high demand for lithography equipment, Canon could leverage the cost-effectiveness of its equipment as a selling point to penetrate the semiconductor equipment market. However, integrating nanoimprint technology into existing semiconductor manufacturing processes could be complex due to its incompatibility with EUV and DUV technologies.