China becomes more independent in chips, thanks to SMIC


Especially in these hours, the story that sees opposing China, Taiwan e USA it is more alive than ever, also and above all for the chip war. As I explained to you in this editorial video, if China is stepping up its pressure on the island of Formosa it is precisely because of the tech independence it is trying to achieve. At present, it is Taiwanese TSMC the leading company in the production of chips, especially the most advanced ones that we find on smartphones, tablets and PCs. There is a Chinese alternative which responds to the name of SMIC but which so far has not shown that it is up to the level of the Taiwanese counterpart, more technologically advanced. However, recent research has revealed that the Chinese chipmaker is unexpectedly advancing in its technological evolution.

SMIC achieves 7nm manufacturing process: a milestone for China's chip independence

According to the TechInsights researchers, SMIC would have managed to achieve the production process at 7 nm. This is not the most advanced, as TSMC and Samsung have 6, 5 and 4nm solutions on the market and are already working on future 3nm chips. But considering that until a few months ago there was talk of a SMIC not able to advance beyond 10 nm (and that of its 7 nm we had not spoken for years), the situation becomes different. The discovery was made by analyzing SMIC chips present inside some ASIC machinery for cryptocurrency mining.

smic 7nm

If SMIC seems to have been able to print and market its first 7nm chips it is thanks to DUV machinery (Deep Ultraviolet), necessary for lithographic printing of such microchips. A strong contribution came from the team of 2.000 employees led by the co-CEO Liang Mong Song, controversial personality of the semiconductor sector, accused of having passed his know-how first from Samsung to TSMC and finally from TSMC to SMIC.

Despite an apparently remarkable milestone for SMIC, there are those who raise doubts about the actual marketability of chips made with DUV systems, less advanced than those EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) used by TSMC and Samsung. As stated Woz Ahmed, former CSO of Imagination Technologies, "the 7nm DUV chip production limit may result in less than exceptional yields and performance". Without considering that two 7 nm chips can vary qualitatively, in particular in the actual density of the transistors and therefore in the power expressed.

Meanwhile, the United States is not standing by: in 2020, SMIC came inserted in the Entity List by the Trump government, the same fate befell Huawei and ZTE. Not surprisingly, there are rumors of how the evolution of SMIC could save Huawei's mobile division, making it capable of producing advanced chips again. However, the US ban prevents it from purchasing those EUV machines from Dutch ASML, which are needed to make those chips at 7nm or lower that will become the standard in future years.

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