Japan to home new ASML office

28 September 2023

A scenic site for chip manufacturing is Hokkaido! Source: Shutterstock

  • Rapidus Japan will receive support from ASML.
  • Japanese government sees establishing domestic fabs as crucial to economic stability. 
  • TSMC also has plans to build in Japan. 

Japan is building up its domestic manufacturing resources as Rapidus receives support from ASML.

As semiconductor supply chains are shifted away from China, alliances are being formed – not just between nations, but between chip manufacturers, too. Dutch equipment maker ASML Holding has announced it will establish an office in Hokkaido in the fourth quarter of 2024.

The company is the latest semiconductor business to expand operations in Japan. “We will continue to increase our manpower in Japan in order to supply our customers,” said spokesperson Karen Lo, noting that the firm plans to grow its headcount by about 40%.

ASML currently has eight sites in Japan and employs around 400 people. The base, which will be set up on northern Japanese island Chitose, Hokkaindo, is being established to support production at the existing chip plant for Rapidus.

Rapidus was set up by eight major Japanese companies including Toyota and Sony. It aims to provide a domestic source of next-generation semiconductors. The venture has received full backing from the Japanese government – to the tune of billions of yen in funding – as it seeks to break into the market for manufacturing custom-made, leading-edge microchips.

Establishing a fab in the country is seen as crucial for the pursuit of supply chain and economic security for Japan.

Earlier in September, Rapidus broke ground on its future IIM-1 plant. IIM-1 (innovative Integration for Manufacturing) will be the first facility in Japan to produce logic semiconductors at 2-nm and beyond. Mass production will begin in 2027.

“We always have engineers that support our systems in our customers’ fabs,” the ASML spokesperson said, referring to customers’ factories: ASML will provide its most advanced EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography.

Currently, TSMC, Samsung, Intel and memory chip specialists SK Hynix and Micron manufacture using ASML’s EUV tools. The Nikkei report also said ASML is expanding its existing support base for TSMC – which is building a major plant in Kumamoto in Japan.

Rapidus hopes to manufacture chips at the 2 nanometer process node. ASML is the only maker of the EUV tools necessary to the manufacture of advanced chips, and is one of the leading manufacturers of lithography machines.

Belgian research institute imec and US chipmaking equipment maker Lam Research Corp. are also considering opening bases in Hokkaido to provide technical assistance to Rapidus, which is planning to start test production in April 2025.

With TSMC moving into Japan too, the country could become a powerhouse.