The Chinese SMIC has started mass production of 14nm microcircuits without the use of foreign technologies and is currently mastering 7nm and 5nm. This was not part of the US plans – the Americans dream of destroying the Chinese semiconductor industry in the bud. Now China is much less dependent on other states and can provide itself and other countries with microcircuits, including for cars.
An important achievement for China
China has mastered the mass production of 14nm chips without the use of foreign technology, writes Tom’s Hardware. This was achieved by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC), China’s largest contract chip manufacturer. Included in the top 10 global contract chip vendors.
SMIC was able to do this despite US attempts to completely destroy the semiconductor industry of the Chinese industry and deprive the PRC of even the minimum potential for development in this area. 14-nanometer production SMIC organized at its plant near Shanghai, which was officially confirmed by local officials. In particular, this was directly stated by the head of the Shanghai Municipal Commission for Economics and Digitalization Wu Jincheng (Wu Jincheng).
It is worth noting that SMIC has been familiar with the 14 nm topology for quite a long time. The release of microcircuits using this technology has not caused difficulties for it for a long time, however, in all previous years there was no talk of mass production.
For example, at the end of 2019, the production of Kirin 710A mobile processors began at one of the Chinese SMIC factories. The customer was the Chinese tech giant Huawei, which in 2022, without official statements, launched a stream of its own sanctions against Russia.
It is time to call this production experimental, since at that time SMIC did not manage to reach any impressive volumes. Huawei sent the main orders to the Taiwanese TSMC, but she refused to cooperate with her back in 2020, not without the influence of the American authorities.
Not the most modern, but
14 nm is a relatively old process technology. Some large manufacturers, such as SK Hynix, mastered it back in 2013, and a year later, other companies, including Intel, caught up.
But for China, the transition to its own production of microcircuits, even if using a nine-year-old process technology, is a great achievement. First of all, this allows the PRC not to depend on other states and makes the country more autonomous in terms of modern technologies.
In addition, 14nm microcircuits, which have not been used in current models of computers, laptops and mobile devices for a long time, are still used in a wide range of devices. For example, they are part of the Internet of things and cars.
There is something to strive for
SMIC doesn’t appear to be stopping at 14nm. According to Tom’s Hardware, the company is conducting non-stop research to master the 7nm and 5nm process technologies.
These are also not the most modern standards, since Taiwanese TSMC and Korean Samsung switched to 4 nm at the end of 2021. However, many companies are still developing 7nm processors and are only planning to move to 5nm. These include AMD – the second player in the global x86 CPU market after Intel.
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As for Intel itself, being also a chipmaker, it is not that far removed from SMIC. Currently, its factories are designed to produce a maximum of 10-nanometer chips, and it has to order the production of chips according to more modern standards on the side – from TSMC. However, this does not prevent her from releasing chips for MediaTek according to ancient technical processes.
SMIC made its first hints of 7nm back in 2020. It said it was working on an N+1 manufacturing technology that would eventually prove to be a more affordable alternative to TSMC’s N7. According to representatives of SMIC, chips released by N + 1 will be 20% faster and 55-63% more energy efficient than 14-nanometer ones.
According to the Global Times, 7nm chip manufacturing is growing faster than expected. At present, the SMIC N+1 equipment is ready for the production of chips in small batches. This proves that SMIC can operate and develop without EUV equipment, which the US authorities have banned from China.
However, it is still impossible to say with certainty that SMIC will really be able to start producing chips according to 7 nm standards. In terms of logic transistor density, the N+1 from could be an alternative to TSMC’s N7. However, TSMC, as the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, has much more advanced chip manufacturing technology, which is attracting large customers such as Apple, Qualcomm, AMD and others.
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Against this backdrop, awakening the interest of world-famous companies in their N + 1 technology can be a very difficult task for SMIC. Also, we must not forget that SMIC has not yet completely replaced foreign equipment and therefore cannot produce chips for Huawei. This company could become a key client of SMIC, but to work with it, you first need to obtain a US export license, since SMIC uses a lot of American technology in its work.
Russia can’t keep up with China
While China is successfully mastering the technical processes of the beginning of the last decade, Russia cannot get off the ground under the name “65 nm”. This is a 20-year-old technology, but as of September 2022, not a single Russian chip vendor could launch production according to more modern standards.
65 nm is an achievement of the Mikron company, which calls itself the “chipmaker No. 1 in Russia.” The authorities have a plan for the development of domestic electronics – it refers to the development of 28-nanometer production in Russia by 2030. The construction of the factory necessary for this has already begun. There is no mention of more modern standards.
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