China speeds up advanced chip development

By Mark Lapedus for SEMICONDUCTOR ENGINEERING – Efforts underway to develop 7nm, DRAM, 3D NAND, and EUV domestically as trade war escalates.

China is accelerating its efforts to advance its domestic semiconductor industry, amid ongoing trade tensions with the West, in hopes of becoming more self-sufficient.

The country is still behind in IC technology and is nowhere close to being self-reliant, but it is making noticeable progress. Until recently, China’s domestic chipmakers were stuck with mature foundry processes with no presence in memory. Recently, though, a China-based foundry entered the 14nm finFET market, with 7nm in R&D. China also is expanding into memory. And in the fab equipment sector, China is developing its own extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography system, which is a technology that patterns the most advanced features in chips.

It’s unlikely that China will develop its own EUV system in the near term. And for that matter, the nation’s foundry and memory efforts are modest, at least for now. And China won’t overtake multinational chipmakers anytime soon.

Nonetheless, it is developing its domestic IC industry for several reasons. For one thing, China imports most of its chips from foreign suppliers, creating an enormous trade gap. China has a sizeable IC industry, but it isn’t large enough to close the gap. In response, the nation is pouring billions of dollars into its IC sector with plans to manufacture more of its own chips. Simply put, it wants to become less dependent on foreign suppliers.

China recently accelerated those efforts, especially when the U.S. launched a multi-prong trade war with the nation. In just one example, the U.S. has made it more difficult for Huawei to obtain U.S. chips and software. And recently, the U.S. blocked ASML from shipping an EUV scanner to SMIC, China’s largest foundry vendor. China sees these and other actions as a way to hamper its growth, prompting it to speed up the development of its own technologies.

Meanwhile, the U.S. says its trade-related actions are justified, claiming that China is engaged in unfair trade practices and has failed to protect U.S. intellectual-property. China dismisses those claims. Nonetheless, the industry needs to keep an eye on the trade issues as well as China’s progress in semiconductors… Full article


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