HILLSBORO, Ore. — To create a beam of ultraviolet radiation precise enough to print the world’s most advanced microchips, one of the most expensive tools in the world sprays microscopic droplets of molten tin across a vacuum chamber.
This system is called extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, and it’s theoretically precise enough to hit your thumb with a laser pointer from the moon.
EUV machines are the future of the semiconductor industry, which is operating at a breakneck pace after the pandemic upended the world. Jolted by factory shutdowns and a big shift in demand for consumer goods that all seem to need chips, the businesses that manufacture semiconductors have been furiously growing to satiate the world’s unlimited appetite for computing power. At the same time, Intel has vowed to return its chip-making business to its former leadership position after a prolonged period of dysfunction.