Canon to launch advanced microchip steppers

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TOKYO, Nov 22 (Reuters) Canon Inc <7751.T> said it would launch advanced semiconductor steppers this month, intensifying competition in a market currently dominated by Netherlands' ASML and Japan's Nikon Corp <7731.T>.

Steppers are multi-million dollar machines used to etch circuitry onto microchips.

Canon plans to start shipping its first immersion steppers to chip makers by the end of the month and was aiming for a 30 percent share in the market for the cutting-edge steppers in 2010, a Canon spokesman said on Thursday.

Immersion steppers use purified water between the lens and the silicon wafer to increase depth of focus. This allows for smaller features and thinner circuitry, helping chipmakers to boost productivity and lower costs.

Shares in Canon fell 0.2 percent to 5,380 yen on Thursday, while Nikon lost 1.7 percent to 3,410 yen. The Nikkei average <.N225> fell 1 percent.

REUTERS SR RS1229

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