Report: SMIC could start 7nm chip production by next year

SMIC prepares for 7nm chip
Image: SMIC

Shanghai Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) could have the capability to mass-produce 7nm chipsets by 2021, reports Seeking Alpha. The website explained the Sino manufacturer could cross the threshold despite not having access to the latest microelectronics processing technology.

If the firm’s prediction proves true, SMIC will join Samsung and Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) as mass producers of sub-10nm nodes.

How SMIC Could Manufacture 7nm Chips

Although SMIC is one of the world’s largest pure-play chipmakers, it lacks the technological sophistication of its competitors. However, the company looks to close that gap with a mixture of R&D and corporate partnerships.

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Seeking Alpha reports the foundry lags behind its rivals by around four years but is on pace to produce 7nm wafers next year. One reason the company cannot create cutting-edge nodes is geopolitical disputes have kept it from acquiring state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. However, in recent years, the firm has developed N+1, an etching methodology that fabricates chips 55 percent smaller and 57 percent more energy-efficient than standard 14nm wafers.

Thanks to its breakthrough, Seeking Alpha expects SMIC to release 7nm nodes in 2021, roughly three years after TSMC began mass-producing components using the process.

In addition, SMIC forged a partnership with Shanghai Microelectronics to help bolster its technological resources in June. The foundry also raised $7.75 billion via an initial public offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. With its new alliance and cash infusion, the manufacturer should have no problem starting volume production on 7nm wafers.

Why SMIC’s 7nm Breakthrough is Important

SMIC needs to advance its fabrication process to take advantage of a major revenue opportunity.

Although regular technological advancement is crucial for any tech company, SMIC has an incentive to upgrade its processes quickly. Because of the recent U.S. State Department mandate, TSMC will stop selling chipsets to Huawei in September. The brand reportedly tapped the Sino manufacturer to take its old supplier’s place, but its technical limitations pose a problem.

Huawei became China’s number one smartphone brand on the strength of high-performance Kirin chipsets. However, without the support of TSMC, the conglomerate could not offer smartphones that could challenge Apple and Samsung’s flagships. The firm could keep its mid-tier units in production with SMIC’s components, but its premium handsets need 7nm nodes.

If SMIC releases 7nm wafers next year, it might be able to help Huawei maintain a seamless device release schedule. As the smartphone maker shipped 238.5 million handsets in 2019, its orders will do wonders for the chipmaker’s bottom line.


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