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What are the difficulties in the development of Chinese chip manufacturing industry?

In 2021, China’s GDP reached 114.4 trillion yuan, an increase of 13 trillion yuan in one year, which is the first time in the history of the Chinese nation. The year 2022 is an important year for China to fully build a modern socialist country and march toward the second centenary Goal. How to take the new “road to test” attracts worldwide attention.

On this new road, China’s development is under pressure from the outside. Under pressure, the importance of safeguarding technological sovereignty is also self-evident. Among them, the independent research and development capacity and production capacity of semiconductor industry are the important factors that determine the sovereign development of China’s information technology.

Source: Pai Xin Network

Semiconductor is mainly composed of four parts: integrated circuit (IC: integrated circuit), photoelectric device, discrete device, sensor, because the integrated circuit and accounted for more than 80% of the device share, so usually semiconductor and integrated circuit equivalent. Integrated circuits can be divided into four main categories according to product categories: microprocessor, memory, logic devices, and simulator parts, which we also call “chips”.

Semiconductor industry is a strategic, fundamental and pioneering industry that supports national economic and social development, and it is also a field that China needs to make breakthroughs in at present. Not only does it support a vast ecosystem, but its boundaries are being stretched. From simple computing and control, data, intelligence to perception and signal conversion, energy conversion to AI, cloud computing, big data, Internet of things, digital economy, information security and so on, they are all based on chips without exception. It can be said that the development of semiconductor manufacturing technology in place, China’s science and technology will not be controlled by others.

Why is semiconductor manufacturing so hard to grow? We briefly understand the semiconductor manufacturing process and technical difficulties from the global perspective.

Various semiconductor products

First of all, we take the automobile as an example to introduce the fields involved in semiconductor technology. There are a variety of applications, from F-1 racing cars to large trailers. Semiconductor products are also classified according to substrate materials and applications. Their classification is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Main classification of semiconductors (by material and product)

The main materials are single element materials and compound materials. Silicon semiconductors are of course single-element, and compound materials are mainly used in product-specific optical devices.

Talk about semiconductor technology

In the semiconductor industry, manufacturing is called Process. Why? Although there is no clear answer, many people think that it is not so much the small size of the process (currently nm process). 1nm=10-9m), rather the manufacturing process cannot be seen with the naked eye. For example, assembly works such as television sets and cars cannot be called crafts because they are visible to the naked eye. In addition, semiconductor products have another characteristic, that is, not one by one, but mass production, and then segmented. In semiconductors, therefore, it may be appropriate to use the relatively abstract term “Process.”

The semiconductor process consists of the front and rear stages. The first part of the Process is called Wafer processing, because it mainly processes silicon wafers. The main six processes are repeated many times and are called “cyclic processes”. Chemical industry is often called “process industry”, also because chemical products have to go through thermal decomposition, polymerization, distillation and other processes, hence the name. It is also mass-produced first and then packaged separately. In contrast, the latter stage process includes packaging and is therefore referred to as a “Flow process” from upstream to downstream.

The front-end process can be further classified as front-end and back-end. The former basically is to form the element such as transistor, and the latter basically is to form wiring. The fabrication size is very small, only a few tens of nanometers (nanometers), so the cleanliness requirements of silicon wafers become more stringent, and the cleanliness requirements of manufacturing equipment and fabs are also very high. Manufacturing equipment becomes more expensive, and the investment of fabs is also larger.

Figure 2. Characteristics of semiconductor process

The above is summarized in Figure 2, which I want you to keep in mind.

It should also be mentioned that the semiconductor process in this paper is processed on the surface of the silicon wafer (Mirror), not on the back of the silicon wafer (Sand Blast). The sudden appearance of the words mirror and frosted surface may confuse the reader who is not familiar with wafer, so here is an introduction to silicon wafers.

Silicon wafers are silicon ingots of monocrystalline silicon sawed into disks. Both logic and memory LSI are made only on the wafer surface, so the wafer surface is specular polished. As shown in Figure 2, it is called a mirror because it is as bright as a mirror. The other side is only rough grinding, not as bright as a mirror, so it is called matte surface.

Difficulties in semiconductor manufacturing

The main difficulties in semiconductor manufacturing can be summarized as the following seven points.

1. High purity of material

The purity of the wafers is up to “11 nines”, or 99.999999999%, and the cleanliness is 100 times stricter than the requirements of the operating room.

2. Great complexity

With tens of billions of transistors, it’s incredibly complex.

3. The process size is extremely small

Transistors have come down to the 5nm scale.

4. The equipment is extremely complex

Semiconductor requirements for precision and function are very high, resulting in a simple process can hardly meet the needs of sophisticated. So you need a lot of complicated equipment, like lithography. The light source and optical reflection system of lithography machine are quite complex systems.

5. The investment costs are enormous

It takes tens of billions of dollars to build a fab below 10nm with capacity of 100,000 wafers a month. Not only equipment, related process development is also the same order of magnitude.

6. Long workflows

Various equipment, mostly serial processing throughout the manufacturing process, workflow design, implementation, monitoring requirements are high.

7. Extremely fine division of labor and extremely close integration

From design, EDA (electronic design automation), the mutual integration of equipment and materials, are the major enterprises with decades of industry foundation to promote and become, making it difficult for latecomers to live or even intervene.

About Electronic components distributor FAST TURN CHIP

FAST TURN CHIP is a B2B electronic contract manufacturer, with a number of electronic components procurement points. We can find and purchase hybrid electronic components and ics at competitive prices to meet customer needs. No matter what components you want, no matter how many, you can buy from Cocreate At a reasonable price and with traceable quality.

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