“SMIC to start 7nm production in Q4” (update)

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SMIC will begin small-scale 7nm FinFET production at the end of this year, several Asian news outlets report. Having started 14nm production late last year, that would mean the Chinese foundry is progressing very quickly. It still has a lot of ground to make up with respect to TSMC, however. The leading pure-play foundry started 7nm production in H1 2019 and is about to kick off 5nm production.

The new generation of ICs being readied at SMIC won’t be manufactured using EUV lithography – that was never the plan. The Chinese foundry doesn’t even have an EUV scanner installed yet, and it obtaining one has become troublesome now that the US is trying to slow down China’s advances in semiconductor technology.

Update: EE Times points out that categorizing SMICs new process as “7nm” is a bit generous. It’s better described as an improved 14nm process that can compete with 7nm processes on some characteristics.