China is not yet able to produce chips thinner than

China is not yet able to produce chips thinner than 90 nm without imported equipment

Despite the active purchase of foreign equipment that is not yet subject to sanctions from Chinese chipmakers and some progress in import substitution, the local semiconductor industry still cannot boast of having a sufficient production base for subsequent advances. All advanced equipment made in China is concentrated in scientific laboratories rather than industrial enterprises.

    Image source: Bloomberg

Image source: Bloomberg

About how explained South China morning postsaid the vice chairman of the China Electronics Equipment Manufacturers Association at an industry event in August. Li Jinxiang made it clear that China’s semiconductor industry still has a long way to go before it can reduce its dependence on imported equipment. He noted that none of the production lines in China are equipped with domestically manufactured lithography systems, as most of them have prototype status and are used for scientific research.

Perhaps this is precisely the basis for the conclusions of American officials who launched their own investigation after the release of the Huawei Mate 60 Pro smartphone, based on the Chinese 7nm processor HiSilicon Kirin 9000s released under sanctions. According to US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, based on the evidence available to the US, this investigation concluded that China does not have the capacity to mass produce 7nm chips.

Of course, China has been trying to develop its own advanced lithography systems for many years, but the best models of purely Chinese devices of this type, manufactured by the Shanghai company SMEE, can now only work with 90 nm lithography standards. In this regard, such a scanner is an order of magnitude inferior to the capabilities of Japanese and Dutch models. However, Chinese experts argue that it would be unfair to place all the blame for the delay on the same company SMEE. A lithography system consists of many components that are supplied by third parties, and SMEE’s suppliers are also significantly behind the Western competition. The company itself will only start delivering lithography systems capable of working with 28nm technology at the end of the year. To move beyond the ability to produce 7nm chips using bypass technologies, experts say Chinese suppliers will need to make significant advances in all key components.

Analysts at Albright Stonebridge Group estimate that it will take at least four to five years for an EUV-class lithography system to be available in mass production in China, thanks to the efforts of local device developers relying exclusively on local component suppliers. The leader in the supply of such lithography scanners to the global market is ASML from the Netherlands, but the authorities of this country already banned it from supplying such devices to Chinese customers in 2019, and now new sanctions are being prepared to expand the list of bans to more sophisticated ones Devices.

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Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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