US weighs up ban on memory-making equipment to China • The Register

Memory vendors Samsung and SK Group could be the latest casualties in US efforts to derail China’s domestic semiconductor industry.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reports that the United States is considering measures that would, among other things, limit shipments of US-made chip manufacturing equipment used to produce memory technologies with more than 128 layers to china.

Reading: Weighs samsung foundry

Unlike previous export bans, the measures would not be limited to Chinese memory suppliers such as yangtze memory technologies co. (ymtc) and instead would be extended to any company operating in the region. this puts samsung and sk group, which are producing 176-layer nand flash in large volumes, squarely in blast radius if the biden administration were to move forward with another round of chinese trade restrictions

South Korean foundry operators have substantial investments in China. SK Group is also in the process of acquiring Intel’s NAND memory and storage business in a deal valued at approximately $9 billion. The acquisition includes Intel’s NAND manufacturing facility in China’s Dalian province. Samsung also operates two memory factories in Xi’an and Suzhou, China.

However, Reuters reports that the measures are still in the early stages of development.

the rumors emerge less than a week after the us congress. uu. passed a $280 billion bill that seeks to boost American investment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and scientific research. And it is reported that China wants to spend about $150 billion by 2030 on silicon manufacturing.

a risky proposition

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It remains to be seen whether the white house would risk derailing a $20 billion investment by sk group (the parent company of sk hynix) announced last week to build semiconductor package and battery technology in the us. uu.

Samsung, which is reportedly weighing a $200 billion foundry expansion in Texas that would see the construction of nearly 11 factories outside of Austin, is also unlikely to view more stringent trade restrictions favorably.

It is also unclear whether the alleged export ban would have the desired effect. Previous attempts to prevent China from gaining access to US-made semiconductor manufacturing equipment. uu. and intellectual property have yielded mixed results.

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In the final days of the Trump presidency, the US Department of Commerce banned several China-based companies, including the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), from importing US chipmaking equipment.

The export ban sought to prevent the manufacturer from producing chips based on a 10nm process or less. Despite these measures, smic is reported to have obtained the means to produce 7nm chips.

Previously, it was thought that the Chinese had recently succeeded in increasing the production of 14nm chips. By comparison, Intel is producing chips on a 10nm process, with 7nm chips scheduled to launch next year, and TSMC and Samsung are in the process of rolling out their 3nm process node. (Remember, however, that these compute node sizes are vendor-defined marketing rather than the actual size of the feature.)

financial problems

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Despite recent victories, China’s efforts to catch up with rival nations in the field of semiconductors have not been without challenges or controversy.

This week, Reuters reported that China’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI), the country’s corruption watchdog, was investigating Ding Wenwu, who heads China’s IC industry investment fund. China, over accusations of “serious violations of the law”.

The fund, better known as the “grand fund,” was established in 2014 in an effort to align China’s semiconductor and design capabilities with those of the United States, South Korea and Taiwan. has raised tens of billions of dollars to support domestic chipmakers, including smic and ymtc.

However, the great fund has also been a source of controversy. According to Reuters, the CCDI opened an investigation into the fund’s previous director, Lu Jun, last month citing similar alleged violations.

and accusations of corruption and misconduct are not the only problems facing Chinese semiconductor factories.

tsinghua unigroup, a major chinese chipmaker and foundry operator responsible for mobile chip design, nand flash manufacturing, iot, security chips and it infrastructure, received a $9 billion bailout this spring from a government-backed appraisal management company after racking up more than $30 billion in debt. ®

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