Huawei’s “HiSilicon Factory” to close the chipset gap

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Like a steel-eyed player in Las Vegas, Beijing is doubling its stake.

But they don’t play for a pot of money, the prize is bigger, much, much bigger.

And no nation on our planet plays the long game better than China.

While the United States recently proposed a stricter policy to ban exports of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China, the design and construction of high-end chipsets on the mainland is at full speed.

Digitimes reports that Huawei will build its first wafer manufacturing company in Wuhan, Hubei province. According to reports, the company is expected to start production in stages from next year.

Sources reveal that this factory was initially used to produce Kirin optical communication chips and modules to gain autonomy and keep a good amount of chipsets needed.

Digitimes further claims that this factory will be used to produce chips and optical communication modules to gain autonomy and create microcircuit designs.

As we all know, Huawei’s chip design subsidiary HiSilicon has the ability to engineer advanced chip designs.

And while Huawei is best known for its dominance in telecommunications equipment, the company’s Wuhan-based research institute currently has nearly 10,000 R&D people who primarily research and develop optical communications equipment, HiSilicon chips, and even automotive laser radars.

In fact, HiSilicon might be the only company in China with the capacity to develop a coherent optical DSP chipset.

In the proposed plan, Huawei will support the Wuhan HiSilicon factory project with a total investment of CNY 1.8 billion.

Currently, the Wuhan-based Huawei Research Institute has nearly 10,000 research and development employees who mainly research and develop optical communication equipment, HiSilicon chips and automotive laser radars. Credit: Handout.

Its mission: to develop its own chipset for smartphones and other IoT devices.

And how is that possible, with China behind Taiwan and South Korea, in the design of advanced chipsets?

According to an industry insider who spoke to Asia Times, you don’t need to put a 5nm chip in a laptop because processing is coming back to center with the rapid emergence of 5G.

The key is speed of communications, which means the Chromebook idea could dominate the market in the future.

“You can set up massive parallel processing arrays with 14-28nm chips as fast as you want, and the laptop is just a dumb terminal for that central processor,” the insider said.

“The importance of ultra-fast and narrow gateway chips is overstated. China may now or soon will be able to produce all the 14-28nm chips it needs – and that accounts for 98-99% of the total market. “

China’s 30-year semiconductor journey has emerged as a major player, accounting for nearly 13% of the global integrated circuit design market in 2020.

Amid the continuing trade and technology standoff with the United States, China has accelerated the development of domestic manufacturing plants to locate the most vital pieces of the technology supply chain.

In this integrated circuit assembly line, a lithography machine is fundamental for the entire production line.

China’s “national champion” in the region, Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment (SMEE), which was founded in 2002 by Shanghai Electric Group, is reportedly ahead of the development of its immersion lithography system in the region. second generation deep ultraviolet (DUV). , which could produce chips up to 7nm with multiple patterns.

In 2002, a lithography machine technology research project was included for the first time in China’s National High-Tech R&D Program (Program 863). SMEE was founded the same year.

His research in the field continued in the “02 special project”, as well as 15 other national special projects published in the national broad lines of medium and long-term planning for scientific and technological development (2006-2020) in 2006.

Special Project 02 focuses on extensive circuit integration and peripheral equipment manufacturing, where the development of a local lithography machine supply chain was one of the critical tasks.

Since the inception of the project, SMEE has gradually become the primary designer and “integrator” of a plethora of lithography equipment components made in China.

By no means is this a magic carpet trick – the Chinese chip industry still faces huge challenges and fierce competition.

But to date, SMEE has developed 4 series of lithography machines for IC manufacturing, advanced IC packaging, LED / MEMS / power devices and TFT circuit fabrication.

Since June 2021, SMEE’s most advanced device has been its “600 series” scanner for integrated circuit manufacturing. This machine can be used to build chips in 90nm, 110nm and 280nm processing technologies.

Meanwhile, Huawei has yet to make any official announcement or confirmation about the HiSilicon Wuhan plant.

“The United States is highly unlikely to remove us from the entity list,” billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei said in February when opening a mining innovation lab partly sponsored by Huawei. “Right now we just want to work harder and keep looking for new opportunities to survive.”

Sources: Huawei Central, Equal Ocean, Digitimes, MySmartPrice, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg

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