ASML getting sucked into the US-China trade war this year tops Bits&Chips’ website statistics. The three most-viewed items are all about the Dutch government responding to intense US diplomatic pressure by withholding the Veldhoven-based equipment maker a license to export EUV scanners to China. As it stands now, it doesn’t look like the permit will be granted any time soon, but ASML assures us it doesn’t matter all that much: EUV scanners will sell out one way or the other. ASML becoming Europe’s most valuable tech company caught people’s attention too, as did the much-delayed first shipment of the multi-e-beam metrology tool (it was eventually shipped in May).
Our top 10 would be filled almost completely with ASML articles, so to make this overview a bit more interesting we skip a few items to see what other news proved popular. The ‘winner’ in this category is the report about a Belgian ‘fever scanner’ that started flying off the shelves when the first corona wave hit. An analysis on why Intel, the undisputed king of the semiconductor hill for decades, is now being outdone by ‘lesser beings’ also managed to compete well with ASML’s barrage.
News that Chinese foundry SMIC was about to start 7nm production probably surprised, if not scared, a few people. It turned out, however, that the designator ‘7nm’ was a bit generous. In actual fact, the new chips are more like 14nm in most respects. Finally, two partnerships made it into our ASML-less top 5: the Imsys project, a public-private partnership to create next-generation high-performance motion systems, and the Dutch Corona Mask initiative, looking to set up an all-Dutch supply chain to remedy the protective gear shortage in March.