On January 5th, 2024, Intel Oregon confirmed the receipt of ASML's first-generation Twinscan EXE:5000 High-NA EUV lithography scanner. Both companies are set to commence the assembly process shortly, and Intel will then begin its High-NA learning curve with the objective of integrating the technology into mass production for their post-18A node.

The original update, dated December 21, 2023, reported that ASML had shipped its pilot High-NA EUV scanner to Intel. The Twinscan EXE:5000 extreme ultraviolet (EUV) scanner is ASML's inaugural High-NA scanner and has been highly anticipated by Intel, dating back to their initial order in 2018. Intel aims to utilize the new machine for High-NA EUV experimentation before deploying the commercial-grade Twinscan EXE:5200 tool for high-volume manufacturing (HVM) around 2025. This development represents a significant industry milestone that will impact not only Intel but also other advanced fabs.

The ASML Twinscan EXE High-NA scanner, destined for Intel's facility near Hillsboro, Oregon, will require substantial logistics due to its colossal size, involving 13 truck-sized containers and 250 crates for transportation. Once assembled, the machine will stand at 3 stories tall, necessitating Intel to construct a new, taller fab expansion to accommodate it. The price tag for each High-NA EUV scanner is estimated to range between $300 million and $400 million.

The introduction of high numerical aperture (High-NA) EUV lithography tools with a 0.55 NA lens capable of an 8nm resolution marks a significant advancement from the current EUV tools with a 13nm resolution. These next-generation High-NA EUV scanners are projected to play a crucial role in chip production using process technologies beyond 3nm, expected to be adopted by the industry in 2025–2026. They offer the potential to eliminate the need for EUV double patterning, thus reducing complexity, possibly enhancing yields, and lowering costs.

The forthcoming ASML's Twinscan EXE lithography tools with a 0.55 NA will entail significant differences compared to the company's regular Twinscan NXE litho machines with a 0.33 NA. Notably, the halved reticle size of the High-NA scanners will necessitate chipmakers to reconsider chip design and production, particularly in the context of challenges posed by high-end GPUs and AI accelerators. Additionally, the adoption of High-NA scanners will require new investments in infrastructure, encompassing photoresists, metrology, pellicle materials, masks, and inspection tools.

Intel's early adoption of High-NA tools positions it to refine and set industry standards for High-NA manufacturing, potentially granting the company a significant advantage over its competitors, Samsung Foundry and TSMC.

ASML's announcement that it will be capable of producing 20 High-NA EUV litho tools per year in 2027–2028, along with the disclosure of a double-digit number of machines in its High-NA backlog, signifies the readiness of industry partners to embrace these scanners, with Intel leading the way.