TECH NEWS – Suspicions have been raised that China may be able to bypass sanctions.
Chinese tech giant Huawei has filed a patent related to advanced semiconductor manufacturing. A Taiwanese company specializing in specific chip manufacturing products has stopped supplying China. Huawei’s patent refers to chip production using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. It has sparked speculation that China may circumvent restrictions prohibiting it from purchasing or manufacturing chips with the new technology. Taiwan’s Gudeng Precision Industrial Co, which supplies equipment (such as masks) for EUV production, has halted shipments to China but calls it a temporary delay, not a suspension.
Chip manufacturing requires a lot of raw materials and products, and underneath, tiny circuits are printed on silicon wafers. It requires a light source. One of the main advantages of EUV is its low wavelength so that small circuits can be printed easily. Previous technologies required several patterning attempts for the same circuit size. The mask containing the patterns is an integral part of the process because it has the circuit patterns. These masks are placed under the light source and over the wafer, and as light passes through them, they block out the light that is not needed, allowing the chips to be fabricated. Gudeng is one of the world’s largest mask suppliers. It has a dominant market share in EUV manufacturing and should be considered one of TSMC’s largest suppliers of this crucial equipment. One mask can be used for multiple silicon wafers. Therefore careful storage and transportation between chipmaking devices are required, so EUV masks are stored in the apparatus shown below. Gudeng’s equipment is certified by ASML, the only company capable of manufacturing EUV machines.
According to Gudeng, the suspension of Chinese deliveries is only temporary, as it receives orders from China. Yet it has become the first chipmaker to halt shipments to China after the US government said it was giving the country access to advanced technology for military use. The company is one of the world’s leading EUV chipmakers, supplying Intel, Samsung, and TSMC. Previously, Gudeng was optimistic about TSMC’s 3-nanometre mass production, as it expects growth over the next year and a half. The demand for its EUV capsules will grow as TMSC moves to even lower nanometers, as 3 nm transistor nodes can use up to eight times as many capsules as the older 7 nm process line.
Gudeng also benefits from the aggressive pace at which China is developing its domestic chipmaking industry. It mainly supplies FOUPs (front-opening unified pods), which are different from the EUV version and can hold silicon. The capsules transport the silicon wafers inside the chipmaking machine to avoid external contamination. Gudeng expects its revenue in China to grow by 40%, and the company is expected to reach a similar percentage of the country’s market.
Of course, the question is whether the pause is only temporary or whether the government will force them to take a break from China.
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