Even company that makes microchip machines cannot get enough chips

A Dutch company crucial to the global microchip industry has warned of a new bottleneck to production because it cannot get enough chips to make its equipment.

ASML, which makes the enormous machines used to etch microscopic circuits on to advanced microchips, said it was in a “daily fight” to source the components needed to make the equipment.

The company, Europe’s largest technology business that is worth almost €260bn (£216bn), is the world’s only supplier of extreme ultraviolet lithography machines. They can be as large as a bus and cost about €150m apiece. 

It is the world’s only maker of the machines, which is used by manufacturers such as Taiwanese giant TSMC and Intel to produce chips.

Peter Wenninck, ASML chief executive, said: “We are directly impacted, but not that we buy chips. Our suppliers do. We figure out which semiconductor manufacturers make these chips, then we pick up the phone and we call them up and say: ‘Can you help us?’”

Manufacturers, car companies and electronics firms have been hit by a global shortage of microchips for more than a year, leading factories to be shut down and higher prices for devices.

The crunch was initially caused by coronavirus-related shutdowns but has continued amid resurgent demand for new cars and gadgets, and exacerbated by fires at large factories and droughts in Taiwan affecting cooling systems.

The shortage has sparked record investment in new factories, leading to a spike in demand for ASML’s machines, which use light to etch nano-scale patterns onto chip wafers and have allowed the production of increasingly intricate chips.

ASML said it planned to make 55 of its machines this year, but that it would take until 2025 for supply to catch up with demand.

It expected sales to increase by a fifth this year despite a fire at its Berlin factory.

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