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It all goes Pete Tong for Nikon!

29 March 2011 | By Mark Osborne | Editor's Blog

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VLSI Research has announced its Top 10 wafer fab equipment supplier rankings for 2010 and its not one company’s position that hits you with a sledge hammer but its growth in terms of percentage compared to 2009. As the headline states clearly (though the cockney rhyme may not) Nikon is has had a terrible time against its nemesis, ASML.

There was a time when a small group of companies looked like they could threaten Applied Materials dominance of the semiconductor equipment industry, as long as they continued to gain market share and expanded into markets Applied or others played.

For years, VLSI Research’s customer satisfaction survey consistently showed that although the mighty Applied mirrored Intel Corp’s dominance of the IC manufacturing rankings, many customers didn’t actually think they did a good job.

Yet year after year they were the top supplier by revenue. Historically, TEL was nipping at the heals of Applied but that trend stopped quite a few years ago. The company that then looked most likely to compete for the number one slot was ASML.

The problem was that ASML had a serious competitor, called Nikon - a competitor that had an historical installed base far greater than the European upstart.

It started really going wrong (cockney rhyme for wrong is Pete Tong) when ASML introduced the twin scan platform and found a few years later that this was actually perfect for immersion lithography. Nikon didn’t then have such a system and history has shown that this little technical detail proved to be a huge differentiator that has seen ASML become the dominant lithography supplier to the industry.

In the 2010 VLSI Research rankings ASML increased revenue by 215.2% to just over US$5 billion, compared to revenue of US$1.6 billion in 2009. It grew the most than any other company and had the third largest revenue in the year before.

On the other hand, Nikon saw revenue of US$748.9 million in 2010 a not so impressive decline of 0.8% compared to the previous year. Nikon was the only company in the Top 10 that saw a decline. To add salt to the wounds the lowest growth rate of any of its ranked rivals was 69.5%, which according to the market research firm was Hitachi High-Technologies.

Enough now of the Nikon bashing, as I would now like to turn my attention to the market leader - Applied Materials.

ASML is now less than US$1 BILLION behind Applied and that is the closest I believe any equipment supplier rival as really got to deposing them.

If any year ASML could trump Applied it could be 2011. I know its early days of the year to say/claim that but it’s just worth a mention at least.

Mock disclaimer: I have purchased many a Nikon camera over my lifetime but never a camera from ASML. I have purchased even more mobile phones but none of which have been from Nikon or ASML, though I prefer Zeiss lenses. What I have realised is that I will never be in a position to buy a lithography tool, yet I know many that have.

Oh. And Pete Tong is recognised as one of the top dance music DJ’s in the world and just happens to be from a small island in the Atlantic Ocean.


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Tool Order: UMC orders lithography tool from Nikon - 25 March 2011

New Product: Nikon‚??s NSR-S610C immersion tool uses 1.30 NA catadioptric lens for sub-45nm patterni - 20 September 2006

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