Walking hard, Huawei invests in the core field of lithography machines!

Recently, Huawei’s Hubble Technology Investment Co., Ltd. has invested in Beijing Keyi Hongyuan Optoelectronics Technology Co., Ltd. The latter’s main business involves the core technology of lithography machines, which means that Huawei has begun to formally deploy the field of lithography machines.

According to the company’s industrial and commercial information, Huawei’s Hubble Technology Investment Co., Ltd. has recently invested in Beijing Keyi Hongyuan Optoelectronics Technology Co., Ltd. Although the name of Keyi Hongyuan is not familiar to people outside the industry, its main business involves the core technology of lithography machines, which means that Huawei has begun to formally deploy the field of lithography machines.

Specifically, the registered capital of Beijing Keyi Hongyuan Optoelectronics Technology Co., Ltd. increased from 120 million yuan to 201.6 million yuan, an increase of 68%. Among them, Hubble Investment held 4.7619% of the shares, becoming the seventh largest shareholder.

secret and great

In recent years, under the continuous pressure from the United States, the dilemma of “lack of cores and few souls” in China has intensified, and the huge impact on national enterprises represented by Huawei is obvious to all. Fortunately, in the field of operating systems, Huawei has released HarmonyOS for all-smart scenarios, and is committed to building a “universal system” for the interconnection of everything; in the field of chips, Huawei HiSilicon has a top domestic chip design team, but it is limited by domestic chips. The manufacturing industry is lagging behind, and Huawei’s mobile phone business has been severely hit.

In the past two years, Huawei has been “struggling”, but has never stopped saving itself, and officially established Hubble Technology Investment Co., Ltd. in 2019, mainly for investment services. As of the end of last year, Hubble Technology has invested in 25 companies including Shandong Tianyue, Dongwei semiconductor, Tianke Heda, Siruipu, Dongxin Semiconductor, and Smartway, covering EDA, semiconductor materials, third It is not difficult to see Huawei’s determination to get rid of “stuck neck” in various fields such as generation of semiconductors, semiconductor wafer-level substrates, analog chips, optoelectronic chips, and CMOS image sensors.

Foreign investment enterprises of Hubble Technology Investment Co., Ltd. (Data source: Qichacha)

In 2021, Hubble Technology has successively invested in Feipu Electronics, which is engaged in the development of Electronic design automation (EDA) software developed by itself, and Yundao Zhizao, which is committed to the independent research and development and application of high-end simulation technology. The technology manufacturing industry provides the overall solution of the rising software, and is engaged in the production and sales of Display driver chips/circuit boards.

It is worth mentioning that on May 31, Hubble Technology underwent an industrial and commercial change, and the company’s registered capital increased from 2.7 billion yuan to 3 billion yuan, an increase of about 11.11%. In addition, according to the company’s information, Hubble Technology has currently invested in 38 foreign companies, covering analog chips, silicon carbide materials, power chips, artificial intelligence chips, in-vehicle communication chips, connectors, etc. Keyi Hongyuan will undoubtedly further complement the chip ecological industry chain invested by Hubble.

The main business of Keyi Hongyuan is the light source system, one of the three core technologies in the lithography machine. It is the first domestic and world third 193nm ArF excimer laser company. Keyi Hongyuan was established in July 2016. It was jointly invested by the Academy of Optoelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Microelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing Yizhuang International Investment Co., Ltd., and State-owned Assets Management Co., Ltd. of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with a registered capital of 120 million yuan.

In 2018, the first domestic high-energy excimer laser independently designed and developed by Keyi Hongyuan was shipped, breaking the long-term monopoly of foreign manufacturers and becoming the domestic industry leader in one fell swoop. However, wearing the aura of “the first in China and the third in the world”, the name of Keyi Hongyuan is not well known to the public. A large part of the reason is that its field is too professional. In addition, if it weren’t for the serious impact of this “chip supply cutoff”, most Chinese people would probably not have known the huge gap between domestic chip manufacturing processes and foreign technologies, and naturally they knew very little about lithography machines.

Benchmark for measuring technology R&D and industrial level

Previously, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei mentioned that the difficulty Huawei encountered was the advanced chips they designed, and the domestic basic industry could not yet produce them. As we all know, advanced technology is one of the weakest links in domestic chips. Among the hundreds of processes in chip manufacturing, lithography is one of the most important steps to directly define the size of the transistor and determine the precision of the chip, and its cost accounts for the entire chip. 30% of the manufacturing cost, and some people even call it “a benchmark for measuring technology research and development and industrial level”.

However, the fabrication of the lithography machine required for the lithography step has stepped on our sore spot. In the global lithography machine market, the monopoly of ASML is beyond doubt, and companies such as Nikon and Canon have also divided up the remaining market share. According to the latest news, the exposure system of the EXE:5000 lithography machine with an ASML aperture value of 0.55 has been designed and can be officially shipped in 2022. The EXE:5000 lithography machine can be used for mass production of 2nm process chips, or even 1nm and below.

In contrast, domestic lithography machines are in a relatively backward position. At present, Shanghai Microelectronics can only manufacture 90nm low-end lithography machines, which is far from the EUV high-end lithography machines and DUV mid-end lithography machines manufactured by ASML. Faced with the current situation of domestic lithography machines, Professor Lin Yifu of Peking University believes that if the Dutch ASML company does not sell lithography machines to domestic enterprises, my country can fully master this technology in about three years. Once domestic enterprises master this technology, then The manufacturing cost of the lithography machine will be lower than that of foreign companies, and the Netherlands ASML will have to withdraw.

Many netizens think that Professor Justin Yifu Lin is too optimistic, but the author believes that his confidence is not groundless. Although EUV lithography machine is the most advanced technology at present, DUV, which is already the “older generation”, is actually the main force of wafer manufacturing, whether it is image sensor, power IC, MEMS, analog IC, or logic IC, behind the scenes Has its figure. The biggest difference between DUV and EUV is the light source, EUV’s light source wavelength is 13.5nm, and the most advanced DUV’s light source wave is 193nm, using ArF light source.

It is worth mentioning that my country has frequently received good news in the DUV field. In the past, Keyi Hongyuan broke the foreign monopoly of 193nm ArF lasers, and later NTU made a breakthrough in 193nm photoresist technology. Nanda Optoelectronics recently announced that the ArF photoresist independently developed by its holding subsidiary Ningbo Nanda Optoelectronics has been certified on the 50nm flash memory platform of a memory chip manufacturing company in December 2020. The certification breakthrough has been made in the products of the technology node, indicating that the company’s photoresist products already meet the process requirements for the metal wiring layer in the rear section of the 55nm platform.

Photoresist is mainly used to protect the built-in lines of the chip and reduce the erosion of the exposed outside of the line. The photoresist is smeared on the surface of the silicon-based chip and forms a liquid under the projection of extreme ultraviolet light. The effective projection area and the cleaning process directly determine the yield of the final chip. The uniformity of the photoresist also directly determines the final chip. Performance, the most widely used photoresists are Krf and Arf, which are mainly used in advanced chip manufacturing process.

More importantly, the ArF photoresist market has been monopolized by the United States and Japan for many years. In May of this year, the Japanese company “Shin-Etsu Chemical” announced that it would no longer sell KrF photoresist to Chinese semiconductor companies on the grounds of insufficient production capacity. Today, when domestic EUV lithography technology is still immature, ArF is still the mainstream, so our various breakthroughs in 193nm ArF lithography technology are of great significance.

write at the end

Initially, Huawei started from HiSilicon. After nearly ten years, its mobile phone chips have gradually gained consumer recognition and reached an international leading position. Before Huawei’s 5G technology became famous, my country was also unknown in the field of global communications.

In the face of monopoly and sanctions, Huawei and the domestic semiconductor industry are not only facing challenges, but also unprecedented opportunities. Although the domestic alternatives in the semiconductor industry have been hindered and long, my country’s scientific research technology, industrial manufacturing, talent reserve and other aspects have long since changed. Technology has made great progress, I believe that self-controllability is no longer empty talk!

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