October 5, 2022

SMIC will start mass production in 14nm with others online

According to a local official quoted by Chinese state media world times on ThursdaySemiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (minimum wage) began mass-producing chips at its Fab SN1 factory near Shanghai, Chinausing his 14nm– class manufacturing method.

With the completion of the Shanghai Industrial Cluster for 14nm chips, more advanced projects in 7nm and 5nm processes will be accelerated,”

-Chen Jia (Global Times)

Since the beginning of 2020, the SMIC has been discussing its N+1 manufacturing technique, which is generally considered the 7nm-class node. It has been positioned as a low-cost alternative to TSMC’s N7 node, which relies on deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography equipment. Compared to a chip fabricated using SMIC’s 14nm process, N+1 hopes to reduce power consumption by 57%improve performance by 20%and reduce the logical space until 55% at 63%.

Recent TechInsights research demonstrates that SMIC’s N+1 technology is similar to TSMC N10 technology, with more lenient restrictions and robust design technology co-optimization (DTCO) characteristics. Since July 2022, SMIC secretly manufactures the Bitcoin mining chip used by Miner Will Semiconductor. The company manufactures such small 25W extract chips using its DUV machines. They provide a way to learn more about process performance, power, and defect density and are simple enough to provide acceptable yields for commercial applications.

SMIC 7nm chip architecture | TechInsights

From the perspective of logic transistor density, the N+1 of the SMIC could replace N7 from TSMC. However, the world’s largest contract chipmaker already uses much more sophisticated manufacturing techniques that appeal to designers of complex chips. CPUcalculate GPUs and other high-end data center-grade circuits. As a result, the minimum wage may struggle to attract top-tier customers for N+1.

It is plausible to expect that the 5nm manufacturing process will be completed sometime in 2023 since the SMIC has been working on its N+2 node for more than two years and companies prefer to discuss new nodes when they have a more or less clear vision of their objectives and the strategies to achieve them.

It is clear from SMIC’s N+1 qualification and readiness for at least limited production that the company can survive without the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) manufacturing equipment it cannot acquire due to of US government sanctions. However, it remains to be seen whether the company can manufacture substantial and complex systems-on-chips using its N+1 node.