ASML breaks ground for lithography cluster in S. Korea

By Lim Chang-won Posted : November 16, 2022, 11:04 Updated : November 16, 2022, 11:09

[Courtesy of ASML]

SEOUL -- The construction of ASML Holding N.V.'s lithography cluster began after the Dutch manufacturer of crucial chip-making equipment pledged close cooperation with South Korean semiconductor companies which have expanded their investment to cement their top position in memory chip production and enhance their competitive power in the global foundry market.

ASML CEO Peter Wennink hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on November 16 in Hwaseong, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Seoul. When completed in late with an injection of 240 billion won ($181 million), ASML's cluster will have facilities for experience, training and remanufacturing. Remanufacturing requires the repair or replacement of worn-out or obsolete components and modules. A remanufactured machine should match the same customer expectation as new machines.

ASML has provided extreme ultraviolet and deep ultraviolet lithography systems to Samsung Electronics and SK hynix. Silicon-based round disks called "wafers" are coated with a light-sensitive substance and enter a scanner in which a laser light source is cast to create patterns of circuitries, which later are used for forming ultrafine, microscopically small structures. Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light wavelengths are used to expose an ultra-thin electrical circuit. Deep ultraviolet (DUV) photolithography is the process of defining a pattern in a thin photosensitive polymer layer (photoresist).

ASML's DUV and EUV lithography systems are used for improving productivity and boosting cost competitiveness in semiconductor manufacturing. The cluster in Hwaseong would strengthen the supply chain of materials related to high-tech equipment in South Korea. 

At a news conference a day earlier, Wennink anticipated synergy with South Korean semiconductor companies saying the cluster would help them procure parts through remanufacturing and expand the base of local suppliers. He also proposed the idea of establishing a research center and manufacturing facilities in South Korea.

U.S. companies are strong in the system semiconductor sector. Taiwan is a solid leader in the foundry business. China is struggling to build an independent semiconductor supply chain because of a new semiconductor alliance pushed by U.S. President Joe Biden who has prioritized domestic manufacturing. Fabless manufacturing is the design and sale of hardware devices and semiconductor chips, while foundry companies are dedicated to manufacturing under consignment.
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