2020-07-12

China may have found a new way to become a leader in 5nm chip manufacturing

By yqqlm yqqlm

lithography machine plays an important role in chip production. They are used to etch patterns on the wafer to show where to place the transistor on the chip. One of the biggest breakthroughs is EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography). This will produce extremely fine marks, which is very important when dealing with the upcoming 5 nanometer Apple A14 Bionic and other chips, which have 15 billion transistors inside.

According to information disclosed by the Global Times, it is said that a domestic research company has developed a 5nm laser lithography machine, and the Chinese hope that this will help the backward chip industry. However, the report stated that it will take some time before this machine is manufactured, and the technology needs to solve some problems.

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Suzhou Institute of Nanotechnology and Nanobionics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Center for Nanoscience and Technology announced yesterday that they have made important discoveries in ultra-high precision laser lithography. However, these findings are currently only theoretical and require a lot of capital to make them a reality. The laser lithography machine will create precise patterns to help produce semiconductors, photonic chips and MEMS. The research paper has been published in a scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society.

In terms of chip production, China is far behind other countries, which is why the recent changes in export regulations have caused a heavy blow to Huawei. The latter uses the world’s largest contract foundry, TSMC, to manufacture chips designed by Huawei’s HiSilicon (HiSilicon) department. TSMC plans to deliver the manufacturer’s cutting-edge 5nm Kirin chip to Huawei this year. The chip is designed to make flagship product lines such as the upcoming Mate 40 more powerful and more energy-efficient. But the United States has changed a rule that prohibits foundry TSMC from using American technology to Huawei’s foundry chips.

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Although Huawei is still allowed to receive chips from TSMC before mid-September, what will happen next year? Faced with such problems, Huawei began to conduct business with SMIC, the largest foundry in China. However, the company is behind several process nodes behind TSMC. For example, while TSMC is busy producing 5nm chips with 171.3 million transistors per square millimeter, SMIC’s most advanced IC uses 14nm nodes to package approximately 35 million transistors into square millimeters. SMIC recently produced Huawei’s Kirin 710-A SoC. SMIC plans to develop a 7nm process node, but requires a more advanced lithography machine. It is speculated that the United States prevented ASML, a leading lithography supplier, from delivering the machine to SMIC earlier this year. Therefore, if the 5nm laser technology is effective, this may be a problem for the Chinese chip industry that really needs to be self-sufficient in this field. There is a big boost.

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Senior industry analysts in Beijing told the Global Times:China should narrow the gap with advanced Western suppliers, especially ASML. Analysts say ASML has monopolized the key technology of its machines and pointed out that it is very difficult to attract funds for such projects because the rate of return is low and such investments may constrain investors’ funds for a long time. The analyst said:Chinese research institutions need to work with companies to overthrow the theory and enter the product. But in terms of profit, it may cost billions of yuan to make chip production machines, and it will take years to recover the investment. Most Chinese companies do not think this is a good deal.

Although China may not focus on such projects now, the money may eventually make SMIC a competitor, which is good news for Huawei and China. You Do you think so?