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SMIC reportedly to produce 5nm Huawei chips despite sanctions

Fred Chen

  • As per the Financial Times report, SMIC will mass-produce 5nm chips designed by Huawei, and is building new production lines in Shanghai.
For context, SMIC’s 7nm and 5nm chip production lines utilize American machines accumulated before the company faced US restrictions. Additionally, its fab includes ASML lithography machines acquired last year. However, the Dutch government’s recent revocation of export licenses for advanced machines has hindered ASML from selling to China.

Sources close to Chinese chip firms revealed that SMIC charges 40 to 50% higher prices for products from its 5nm and 7nm nodes than TSMC. Additionally, SMIC’s yield, or the number of usable chips, is less than one-third of TSMC’s.
As I mentioned before, when I worked with SMIC a few years back at 28nm as an IP provider SMIC never had the yield numbers TSMC did. That went for SMIC, UMC, and Samsung. In fact, I highly doubt any fab has the yield numbers TSMC has including IFS. Even so Samsung routinely charges less for wafers than TSMC no matter what the yield which is very hard to explain in a normal business process.
I found this interesting: SMIC has 3 new fabs under construction, 2 in Beijing and 1 in Shaoxing.
New fabs with significant capital investment bring the possibility of leapfrog improvement in yields. They are also tapping new human resources markets, which also brings the possibility of improvement.