Hopes are high in China that the latest smartphone from Huawei Technologies signals progress in the country's chip production, but experts caution that Chinese firms remain years behind in producing the lithography systems needed to advance further, as reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The lithography machines required for advanced chips currently come from only one company: Netherlands-based ASML Holding. I Photo: ASML Facebook
Even though China has spent years pursuing self-reliance in semiconductors, the lithography machines required for advanced chips currently come from only one company: Netherlands-based ASML Holding.
Producing such complex machinery entirely within China is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, according to industry insiders.
Restricted access to these tools has become the primary obstacle for China to advance its chip industry, even after a teardown of Huawei's latest 5G smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro, concluded that Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) produced the smartphone's 7-nanometre chip using deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machines.
US export restrictions have prevented the sale of more advanced extreme ultraviolet (EUV) machines to China since 2019. The Huawei-designed chips likely push the boundaries of what is achievable with SMIC's existing equipment.