Russia Announces the Rollout of its First 350nm Lithograph

This achievement positions Russia as the fifth country to fully master lithography technology, if the minister’s claim turned out to be true. It also marks a significant step for Russia amidst ongoing sanctions that have hindered its access to Western technology.

TMTPOST--The first Russian lithograph capable of producing chips up to 350 nm in size has been created and is being tested, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Vasily Shpak told TASS on the sidelines of Digital Industry of Industrial Russia.

“We assembled and made the first domestic lithograph. It is now undergoing testing as part of the technological line in Zelenograd,” Shpak said.

This achievement positions Russia as the fifth country to fully master lithography technology, if the minister’s claim turned out to be true. It also marks a significant step for Russia amidst ongoing sanctions that have hindered its access to Western technology.

The leading manufacturers of lithographic scanners in the world can be counted on the fingers of one hand. In fact, this area is dominated by the Dutch company ASML, whose production units are located in the Netherlands, Germany, the United States and a number of other countries. Japanese manufacturers of lithographic equipment - Canon and Nikon - can boast of greater independence, but they have long since dropped out of the list of leaders.

Russia's upcoming 350nm lithography machine, expected to be operational by 2024, is part of a concerted effort to mitigate the impact of international sanctions. This machine, though based on old technology, remains highly relevant for various applications, including military hardware, where robustness and reliability are often prioritized over cutting-edge performance. The machine will support the production of microcontrollers, power electronics, telecommunications circuits, and automotive electronics. The planned development of a 130nm machine by 2026 further illustrates Russia's commitment to advancing its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities.

The global chip war has ramped up since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war in February  2022, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. U.S. Commerce Department expanded export controls to stop American semiconductor technology used in drones, missiles and tanks, from being exported to Russia.

In a 2022 congressional hearing, Raimondo alleged that Russia had begun using semiconductors from dishwashers and refrigerators for its military equipment. More than two years into the war, the Russians are still working their way around the semiconductor issue, she added.

While the first manufacturing of a 130nm chip dates back to 2001 in the global semiconductor industry, Russia’s 350nm technology represents a notable advancement. The DUV (deep ultraviolet) lithography machines used today can manufacture chips to 7nm, but Russia's new machine is initially aimed at less advanced processes.

Russia's semiconductor sector has been largely dependent on imports, with only $40 million worth of chips imported in the first half of 2021 compared to a global market size of $500 billion. In response, the Russian government has approved key documents for the microelectronics industry, aiming for self-sufficiency by 2030. These plans include boosting the share of domestic electronic components from 11% to 70%.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced over 240 billion rubles ($3.3 billion) in funding for electronic engineering development, including new factory constructions by 2030. Currently, Russia's major wafer fabs, Mikron and Angstrem, have limited capabilities, primarily serving military, aerospace, and industrial sectors.

Shpak also revealed plans for developing a 130nm lithography prototype by 2026, with subsequent development of 90nm technology. The goal is to progressively achieve more advanced nodes, with a 7nm chip lithography machine projected for mass production by 2028. The Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences is leading this initiative.

Russia plans to produce an industrial prototype of the lithography machine within six years, starting with the development of an alpha machine in 2024. The focus at this stage will not be on its speed or problem-solving capabilities but rather on the comprehensiveness of all its systems.

By 2026, the alpha machine should be replaced by a beta version. At that point, all systems will be improved and optimized, with enhanced resolution and productivity, and many operations will be automated. The key goal of this stage is to integrate it into actual technological processes and adjust it by incorporating equipment suitable for other production stages. Eventually the existing equipment will be upgraded to provide a stronger light source, improved positioning, and feeding systems, enabling the entire lithography system to work quickly and accurately.

Alexander Sergeyev, an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, revealed that the National Center for Physics and Mathematics (NCFM) will also develop an X-ray lithography machine for modern chip production. This system, expected to be produced within two years, will have a power output much greater than ASML's.

According to Sergeyev, an alliance under NCFM proposed a project to create X-ray lithography, with only the Netherlands' ASML and U.S. national laboratories currently possessing the relevant technology to support such machines. NCFM was established by Putin in 2021, following the integration of over 50 research organizations, universities, and high-tech companies in Russia as part of its scientific and technological plan.

Sergeyev emphasized that while ASML has been focusing on EUV lithography machines for nearly 20 years to ensure top global semiconductor manufacturers maintain high production efficiency, Russia does not need to follow this path. Instead, it can progress according to its domestic needs.

In addition to lithography machines, Russia will also advance in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and other frontier technologies. Stanislav Straupe, a senior researcher at the Quantum Technology Center of the Moscow State University Physics Department, recently said that Russia could develop quantum computers with state support.

“We have already learned to produce qubits and other components of quantum computers with our own hands, but the technological foundation required for their production, including electronic lithography and other nanomanufacturing equipment, is not made in Russia. We need to create this foundation to achieve our goals,” Straupe said.

Ivan Pokrovsky, head of the Russian Electronics Developers and Manufacturers Association, reiterated the necessity to maintain technological independence in developing the semiconductor industry.

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