Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment—China's Entry in the Photolithography Market

Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment (SMEE) is sometimes portrayed as China’s contender to challenge the dominance of Netherlands company ASML in the high-end photolithography market. While SMEE has produced some impressive prototypes and production equipment for secondary photolithography applications such as packaging, this assessment puts them ten to twenty years behind ASML in top-line photolithography, with no evidence they have an EUV machine in any state of development and just beginning to deliver 28 nanometre machines to customers at present.


Let’s not be cocky! Not so long ago, China was decades – arguably a century – behind in steel, shipbuilding, automobiles, pharmaceuticals. Now China is the global #1 manufacturer in all those areas … and more.

China Inc. is a very serious competitor, playing a long game. I would bet that the relevant research departments of most high-end Western universities today have a very healthy representation (if not an outright majority) of PhD students from China. That is certainly the situation in the technical fields with which I am most familiar. And China is clearly funding significant research within its own borders.

This is not a time for us in the West to rest upon our increasingly-tattered laurels.


ASML/Zeiss would be tough to beat, but U.S.A. and Japan once owned the high end market, so time will tell.