In a rather subtle announcement, Intel said that it has invested about $4.1 billion in ASML to accelerate the development of chip production on 450 nm wafers and extreme ultra-violet (EUV) lithography. The company transitioned from 200 mm to 300 mm wafers with its 130 nm chip generation, which was launched in 2001 with the Tualatin- and Coppermine-based Pentium III processors.
In about the same time frame, the company heavily discussed the transition of the production process to costly EUV, but found ways to extend conventional lithography methods, delay the massive EUV investment - about $125 million per production tool - that was originally planned to debut with 65 nm or 45 nm processors. By 2003, Intel had dropped EUV from its roadmap.
The ASML investment is the first major sign that EUV is resurfacing. The R&D investment in ASML is about $1.0 billion: Over a period of five years, $680 million will be spent on 450 mm development and about $340 million on EUV. The remaining $3.0 billion is an equity investment that grant Intel 15 percent share in ASML. The investment makes sense, as it allows Intel to drive production innovation and keep an edge in chip production technology, which is the company's most critical asset today.
Intel did not disclose additional 450 mm and EUV plans.