SMIC reportedly gets US license to purchase chip-making equipment
SMIC reportedly gets US license to purchase equipment
Published: Mar 02, 2021 09:28 PM


China's major chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) has, reportedly, received licenses to import equipment from some US companies for use in its mature processes, an anticipated change as Trump's trade war and wanton sanctions seriously disrupted the global chip supply to the extent of hurting the interests of many manufacturing companies, according to experts.

But they predicted that the US won't ease restrictions on SMIC for advanced chip technologies, such as 7-nanometer or smaller processes.

According to electric information website on Monday, SMIC received US government licenses to import equipment for use in mature processes, including making 14-namometer chips.

The electric research team under Industrial Securities Research Center confirmed the news, saying that one US supplier had obtained permission, and two other companies were still waiting for approval, with a strong chance that they will also get licenses.

The team's report noted that licenses involving technologies sized 14nm or larger have been granted, but licenses for 10-namometer and smaller have not.

Independent tech analyst Xiang Ligang noted it is broadly expected that the US will gradually ease supply restrictions of chip equipment to Chinese chipmakers, though exports of advanced technologies, like 7nm or smaller, will still be restricted by the Biden administration in the foreseeable future.

"The US government ban on the Chinese semiconductor sector has not only disrupted global semiconductor supplies but also hurt the interests of its own companies. I believe the Biden administration is moving to correct the situation," Xiang told the Global Times.

Chinese companies are also ramping up efforts to make breakthroughs in advanced chip-making technology. For example, Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc has begun mass production of 16-nm etching machines, while its 7-10nm etching machines have reached globally advanced levels, according to media reports.

Xiang said that domestic companies still lag behind in advanced chip production, but it will be a trend for SMIC or other companies to rely more on domestic supplies.

SMIC said that it would continue to work with global supply chain partners to make sure it can continue to produce products and its capacity expansion plan is unaffected. 

"Although uncertainties remain, we will insist on lawful operation and we have confidence that the company's short-term manufacturing won't be affected by major negative factors," it said.

SMIC hadn't responded to an interview request as of press time.

Last year, the US government imposed restrictions on exports to SMIC, saying that such supplies could be used for military purposes, but SMIC denied any connections with the Chinese military.