A supply chain report revealed that China’s largest semiconductor company, SMIC, is now pursuing an advanced 5nm chipset technology and Huawei could be the biggest beneficiary of this new achievement.
The revelation is part of the current market demand for Blank Mask and Pellicle, two of the key components in chipset processing technology.
Korean media TheLec reported that the supply shortage of semiconductor photomasks and pellicles will grow after China’s semiconductor breakthrough. Subsequently, the blank mask company S&S recorded a boom in business increasing 20% YoY this year.
A blank mask is a core part of a photomask used in the semiconductor lithography process. A blank mask and a photomask can be compared to a film before and after taking a photograph.
It is made by depositing a metal light-shielding film and an anti-reflection film on high-purity quartz and then applying a photoresist. If a semiconductor circuit pattern is engraved on this, it becomes a photomask.
On the other hand, a Pellicle is a thin, transparent membrane that covers a photomask during the production flow. It works as a dust cover to prevent particles and contaminants from falling on the mask.
Pellicles could make photomask durability more stable and provide it longevity. As a result, this would lead down the production cost.
Industry analyst believes that the current supply of deep ultraviolet process is not up to the increasing demand, which could expand by next year.
The current lack of supplies is created by the unexpected expansion in market demand with the use of the 7nm DUV process by China’s SMIC.
Photomasks produced by Chinese mask shops are low-quality and manufacturers are requiring more mask outsourcing, says an industry insider. SMIC’s 7nm through DUV uses a large number of photomasks as compared to the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) process.
The insider also shared that SMIC is also pursuing 5nm chipset processing technology through DUV. This would further escalate the use of photomask in the industry.
For now, SMIC made no announcements regarding the 5nm chipset process or its preparations but the current phase of its 7nm output is reportedly claimed by Huawei. So, we could expect, Huawei to be the largest shareholder in this technology, if it comes out.