As the importance of Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment, which determines the competitiveness of ultra-fine semiconductor processes, increases, the race to secure next-generation equipment among the top three foundries -- Samsung Electronics, TSMC, and Intel -- is heating up.

TSMC’s CEO, who had been hesitant to adopt next-generation EUV equipment, skipped a major internal event and flew to the Netherlands to discuss the equipment with ASML. This move marks the beginning of the competition for sub-2-nm ultra-fine processes.

According to industry sources and foreign media on May 26, TSMC CEO C. C. Wei skipped the “TSMC Technology Symposium 2024” held in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 23 to visit ASML’s headquarters in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and TRUMPF, an industrial laser specialist company, in Ditzingen, Germany.

The whereabouts of CEO Wei, who was on a secret trip, were revealed through the social media of Christopher Fuke, CEO of ASML, and Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, CEO of TRUMPF. CEO Fuke stated, “We introduced our latest technologies and new products to CEO Wei, including how the High Numerical Aperture (High NA) EUV equipment will implement future semiconductor microprocessing technologies.”

Local media and industry sources in Taiwan analyzed, “It appears that TSMC’s management made a decisive visit to ASML to secure global semiconductor dominance,” adding, “With the increasing importance of lithography equipment in sub-7-nm ultrafine processes, TSMC seems to have joined the competition.” TSMC is reportedly considering the introduction of High NA EUV equipment for processes following the 1.6-nm product, the A16, which is scheduled for mass production in the second half of 2026, while using existing Low NA EUV equipment until then.

The competition to court ASML intensified after Intel became the first in the industry to receive High NA EUV equipment from ASML last year. The industry expects Intel to fully utilize High NA EUV in its 14A (1.4-nm) semiconductor process.

Samsung Electronics is also proactive. Last month on May 26, Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong met with ASML CEO Fuke and Carl Zeiss CEO Karl Lamprecht, a key partner of ASML, at Zeiss’s headquarters in Oberkochen, Germany, to strengthen the “triangular semiconductor alliance.” With EUV emerging not only in the 2-nm foundry process but also in the latest advanced memory (DRAM) processes, Samsung Electronics is also betting on the introduction of High NA EUV.