- SMIC is heavily reliant on photomasks for its 7nm DUV process
- The increased demand for photomasks is a result of SMIC’s use of the 7nm DUV process
SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) has started focusing on advancing its 5nm chipset technology, which could benefit Huawei the most. This development is in response to the increasing demand for Blank Masks and Pellicles, two crucial components in chipset processing technology.
According to a report from South Korean media outlet TheLec, there is a growing supply shortage of semiconductor photomasks and pellicles following China’s semiconductor advancements. This shortage has resulted in a significant boost in business for the blank mask company S&S, with a 20% year-over-year increase in its operations this year.
A blank mask plays a central role in the semiconductor lithography process. It can be likened to a film used in photography, and it is created by depositing a metal light-shielding film and an anti-reflection film on high-purity quartz, followed by the application of a photoresist. When a semiconductor circuit pattern is etched onto it, it becomes a photomask.
On the other hand, a pellicle is a thin, transparent membrane that covers a photomask during the production process. It is a dust cover, preventing particles and contaminants from settling on the mask. Pellicles contribute to greater stability and longevity of photomasks, ultimately reducing production costs.
Industry analysts are concerned that the current supply of deep ultraviolet (DUV) process materials is insufficient to meet the growing demand, which is expected to expand further next year. The increased demand for photomasks is a result of SMIC’s use of the 7nm DUV process, which has led to a supply shortage.
SMIC is heavily reliant on photomasks for its 7nm DUV process, and there are indications that the company is also pursuing 5nm chipset processing technology using the same DUV approach. While SMIC has not officially announced its plans for the 5nm process, it is reported that Huawei is currently a significant customer for SMIC’s 7nm output. Therefore, if SMIC successfully advances its 5nm technology, Huawei could become a major player in this technological advancement.