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The United States is trying to prevent ASML from selling its chip machines to Chinese companies. In addition to the sale of the new EUV machines, the country says the sale of the older DUV machines must also be halted.

In a report, the United States proposes a series of measures to ensure its leadership position in artificial intelligence. The report was commissioned by Congress and the ministries of defence and trade, writes Dutch newspaper Financieel Dagblad. The United States emphasises that it always wants to maintain at least a two-generation technological lead over China.

Halt to export of DUV machines

In order to maintain this lead, the US wants to prevent China from gaining access to ASML’s machines. The US already exerted great pressure on the Netherlands to prevent the export of the latest EUV machines to China, but now the country also wants to stop the export of DUV machines to China. ASML has a monopoly on EUV machines, but DUV machines are also made by the Japanese company Nikon.

EUV needed for smaller chips

For years, chipmakers used DUV machines to produce microchips. As processes got closer to 10nm and even smaller, the ultraviolet wavelengths of DUV machines became too long to irradiate the wafers properly. So the Dutch company ASML developed EUV (extreme ultraviolet) machines to irradiate the wafers more precisely. No other company can produce EUV machines yet, and under pressure from the United States, ASML is not selling the machines to China.

Revenue from Chinese customers

The request to stop selling the older DUV machines as well is not insignificant. According to the FD, 18 percent of ASML’s turnover came from Chinese customers in 2020. This is a significant increase from the 12 percent the year before. Due to the ban on the sale of EUV machines, this growth is entirely in DUV machines.

New laws

A spokesperson for ASML says that the company is not taking a position on the situation and promises to comply with all laws and regulations. Currently, the Wassenaar Arrangement allows the export of DUV technology to China, so the US would have to make new laws to enforce such a ban.

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