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Huali lifts China's chipmaking capacity

By Shi Jing in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-23 09:51

Shanghai Huali Microelectronics Corp, the city's largest integrated circuit investment project, saw its first lithography machine installed on its 12-inch wafer silicon assembly line on Monday, strengthening China's capacity to manufacture high-end chips.

Huali imported the lithography machine from Dutch global industry giant ASML. The NXT 1980Di is the most advanced immersion lithography tool in the Chinese market at the moment. Lithography machines are crucial to chip production, as they help to copy the chip design on the wafer.

Construction of Huali's 12-inch wafer silicon assembly line started on Dec 30, 2016, and has attracted a total investment of 38.7 billion yuan ($6.07 billion). Construction is due to be completed by the end of 2022, when it will have a monthly production capacity of 40,000 wafers.

Wafers are the basis of chip production. The greater the diameter of the wafer, the more chips can be made on each one. Although this can greatly reduce costs, it puts higher requirements on materials and technologies.

At present, there are wafers with diameters of 4, 5, 6 and 8 and 12 inches. The 12-inch wafers take up the majority of the market. Arizona-based global semiconductor market research firm IC Insights predicted that 12-inch wafers will take up 71.2 percent of the global market by 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.1 percent.

According to global chip market consulting firm DRAMeXchange, 10 production lines for 12-inch wafers were in operation in China by the beginning of this year. Another three production lines are being planned and 11 others are under construction, including the one in Huali.

Huali's new assembly line will cover the 28-14nm technology node. It will mainly serve domestic chipmakers and meet the country's demand for producing some of the chips relating to national security. With this, Huali will be able to produce 28-nm chips, of which there are still quite a few on the Chinese market, according to Lei Haibo, the company's president.

Lei further explained that the 28-nm chips can be widely used in areas including mobile phone communication, the internet of things and artificial intelligence.

"The fact that Shanghai is able to produce 28-nm chips means that we are approaching the goal of having more high-end chips produced by domestic manufacturers," he said.

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