Huawei has remained mum on the subject of building its own fabrication plants, and that is likely to avoid further trade restrictions from the U.S. However, a recent patent filing provides evidence that the former Chinese giant is going the extra mile to reduce dependency on foreign companies. The patent application date is June 2022, describing a process for improving wafer alignment and efficiency. It is titled ‘Wafer Processing Device and Wafer Processing Method’ and provides some evidence that Huawei wishes to build its chip plants, which can mean it may want to rid itself of SMIC too.
Huawei has been reported to be involved in building its own fabrication plants, with the company said to be actively participating in expanding three sites in the country. Huawei is said to have acquired manufacturing facilities from Jinhua Integrated Circuit (JHICC) and Qingdao Aristocrat (Suppoly). The firm has also aided in establishing production facilities operated by Pengxinwei (PXW) and Shenzhen Pengsheng Technology (PST), both of which are currently experiencing difficulties in acquiring advanced wafer manufacturing equipment due to U.S. trade sanctions.
TrendForce reports that the patent could mean that Huawei is proceeding to a stage where it will be self-sufficient, but it has not mentioned how will the company’s relationship with SMIC be maintained. The following talks about the wafer patent and how the process improves alignment and efficiency:
“The patent abstract shows the embodiments disclosure related to devices and methods for wafer processing. The wafer processing device comprises a wafer stage rotated along a rotation axis, a mechanical arm with a robotic hand for handling wafers and placing them on the wafer stage, a controller, and a calibration component.
The calibration component includes a grating plate, fixed relative to the wafer stage; a light source, fixed relative to the grating plate; and an imaging element, fixedly provided on the mechanical arm, and adapted to receive light emitted from the light source and transmitted through the grating plate; wherein, the controller is configured to control the mechanical arm or the adjustment device on the mechanical arm to adjust the position of the wafer based on the detection of the received light by the imaging element.
Wherein, when the wafer stage carries the wafer, the grating plate and the imaging element are respectively located on opposite sides of the table where the upper surface of the wafer stage is located, and the upper surface is used to carry the wafer. The devices and methods provided by embodiments of the present disclosure can improve wafer alignment efficiency and alignment accuracy.”
So far, Huawei and SMIC have supposedly made a 5nm chip that powers notebooks, which is a positive sign that the 7nm barrier has been crossed. However, SMIC receives subsidies from the Chinese government as it likely loses millions, if not billions, on each wafer produced. However, it is unclear if it passed on any savings to Huawei when the latter was placing orders for the Kirin 9000S. How Huawei will procure advanced machinery for wafer production for its plants is a discussion for another time, but we will keep our readers updated if anything comes up, so stay tuned.
News Source: TrendForce