Dutch chip-making tech firm ASML buys Cymer for $2.5B for the frickin’ laser beams

Today ASML announced that it is purchasing Cymer, a U.S.-based chip-making technology provider, in a stock-and-cash purchase valued at $2.5 billion. ASML builds machines that chip-makers like Intel use to fabricate CPUs and other computer chips.

The reason?

ASML and Cymer have already been working together on Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) technology to help chip-makers like Intel, Samsung, and Taiwan semi make smaller, faster computer chips. The goal of the acquisition, the company said, is to speed up development.

Computer chips are currently made with a lithographic process using ultraviolet light at 193 to 248 nanometers: literally, the circuits are printed with light. Cymer and ASML are working on shrinking the ultraviolet laser beam down to just 13.5 nanometers, which will allow companies like Intel to squeeze more transistors on chips, making them faster.

By contrast, the hair on your head is gargantuan, at 40,000 to 60,000 nanometers wide, and the head of a pin is a galaxy-spanning million nanometers across.

“EUV is vital to support the semiconductor industry’s transition to the next manufacturing technology, which is needed to create microchips with more functions at a lower cost and that are more energy-efficient, consistent with Moore’s Law,” ASML said in a statement.

With the merger, ASML believes it will be able to install its first EUV-enabled NXE:3300B systems in 2013 for testing and R&D at customer sites, and move the machine into full production in 2014.

In June, ASML sold a 23 percent stake of itself to its three biggest customers, according to Reuters, to fund EUV research and development. This purchase looks to be the beneficiary.

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