Eyeing the booming Chinese semiconductor market, Nikon is planning on releasing a new i-line model next summer – the first update to the Japanese equipment maker’s long-wavelength stepper technology in 25 years. According to a Nikkei report, the tool will be made using off-the-shelf electronic components, resulting in a 20-30 percent price cut compared to the offerings of i-line market leader Canon. According to data from The Information Network, Canon commanded a 57 percent market share in i-line in 2023, ASML came in at 25.3 percent and Nikon at 17.7 percent.
After ASML gained overall market leadership in the lithography equipment market, Canon successfully pivoted to i-line tools, which are still very much in demand. It didn’t give up on the leading-edge chip market, however, pouring money and resources into commercializing nanoimprint lithography (NIL). Canon recently announced its first NIL system, although it’s not clear when the first one will ship.
Nikon, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to set itself apart from its competitors at the moment. Despite the geopolitical risks involved, the burgeoning Chinese market with its focus on more mature semiconductors seems like a perfect stepping stone to grow sales.