The rise of the Chinese company SMIC towards 7 and 5 nm technology after the mass production of 14 nm chips

The country’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) has started mass production of 14nm-class chips at its Fab SN1 near Shanghai, state-run China Networks announced last Thursday. The most important point of the mentioned report is the claim of continued progress in achieving 7 and 5 nm lithography, despite the difficulty in providing advanced chip production equipment due to the new US sanctions. Chen Jia, one of the active researchers in the field of strategy, said in an interview with the state-run Global Times:

As Shanghai’s 14nm chip manufacturing industry completes, more advanced 7nm and 5nm projects are gaining momentum.

Achieving 14nm lithography next to N+1

SMIC to N+1 manufacturing technology from 2020 It has mentioned that it can be the same 7nm node of this company to replace the node TSMC’s N7 relies on deep UV lithography. N+1 aims to reduce power consumption by 57% and increase performance by 20% and reduce the logic area from 55 to 63% for selected structures compared to similar SMIC chips with 14nm lithography. Although the upgrades made in N+1 It was unsuccessful in convincing the media and analysts to call it 7nm, the final output to distinguish it from 12nm and 14nm processes. SMIC Enough.

New findings from TechInsights show that the chip N+1 Company SMIC From the same technology as the 10 nm model TSMC With simpler rules and capabilities bCo-creation of design technologyDTCO) Uses. Additionally, the Chinese company’s chip has a logical transistor density of 89 million per square millimeter, which could make it a potential replacement for the 7nm class.

SMIC is said to have been secretly manufacturing MinerVa bitcoin mining semiconductors since July 2021. The company uses its deep UV equipment to produce ultra-small 25-watt cryptomining chips that are simple enough to provide output suitable for commercial applications and are used as a means to better understand process performance and defect strength and density.

Xiang Ligang, one of the analysts of the technology world, told the Global Times: The production of 7nm chips in China is progressing faster than expected.

Even the limited production of SMIC’s N+1 chips could indicate the company’s ability to continue without extreme ultraviolet manufacturing equipment, which the US government recently banned from selling to China. However, it is still unclear whether the Chinese company will be able to produce large and complex “on-system” chips with its N+1 node.

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In terms of logic transistor density, SMIC’s N+1 node can replace TSMC’s N7. However, the world’s largest chip maker, TSMC, has already achieved much more advanced manufacturing technologies that are of interest to makers of advanced CPUs and computational GPUs and complex chips for large data centers. Therefore, SMIC’s job is not so easy to attract the customers for the N+1 chip. Don’t forget that the Chinese company even needs to get an export license from the US to sell its products to HiSilicon Huawei, which is China’s largest chip manufacturer, because many of the equipment used in SMIC factories are imported from the US and Huawei is also under very strict sanctions.

SMIC acquisition To 5 nm lithography?

Chinese semiconductor manufacturing company SMIC

SMIC In 2020 to technology N+2 He made a brief reference. Although this project is also another step forward compared to 14nm ninety SMIC is considered, Chinese analysts consider it 5 nm technology; Because according to them, it is a step from N+1 It is ahead with 7nm node. However, deep UV instruments with 193 nm lasers have limitations in resolution, and excessive use of multiple patterns to reduce the critical dimensions of circuits leads to undesirable results. Consequently, it cannot be expected that N+2 In terms of transistor density, there is not much progress compared to N+1 have

Since more than two years of work SMIC on ninety N+2 and usually companies tend to introduce their new nodes after they have a clear vision of their goals and ways to achieve them, it can be expected that the manufacturing process N+2 to be completed in 2023. This is while entering SMIC to the so-called black list entity list Since the end of 2020, the American government has started to disclose its achievements less. The Chinese company has only said that it is looking to develop more advanced chip manufacturing technologies to enable heterogeneous integration and offset equipment import restrictions required to achieve sub-10nm technologies.

With these conditions, the disclosure of 5 nm technology SMIC It is very strange and mysterious in the detailed report of mass production of 14 nm chips of this company in a state media.

A mysterious announcement

US competition with China

I have to say SMIC It has been producing 14nm chips since the end of 2019, and one of its products is in the processor Kirin 710A Huawei HiSilicon is used. Meanwhile, contrary to the claim of mass production of the said chip, their volume was so small that the Chinese company consolidated its profitability report with 28, which is a very small share in the revenues. SMIC has it.

Now, Wu Jincheng, director of the Economic and Digitalization Commission of Shanghai Municipality, has again announced the start of mass production of 14nm SMIC chips. has informed. However, he did not mention more advanced nodes at the news conference on Wednesday, and the Global Times reported on N+1 (seven nanometers) and N+2 (five nanometer) has cited the statements of independent experts.

Since people active in this field of abilities SMIC Aware of 14nm chip production, the Chinese state media report appears to be a move to re-emphasize the country’s goal of achieving 5nm technology on the verge.The new US sanctions against China’s semiconductor industry are progressing.

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