Monday, March 1st 2021

China Gobbling Up Supply of Used Semiconductor Manufacturing Machines

As the tensions between China and the US seem to have come to stay for the foreseeable future, Chinese companies are now opting to resort to older technologies so as to shore up their semiconductor manufacturing capability and reduce dependency from US-based imports. With several companies feeling the tight rope of US-imposed sanctions on their ability to purchase critical supplies (which brought even giant Huawei to its proverbial knees), it seems like a safe bet that China doesn't really care to be on the cutting edge for all but the most mission-critical applications. This happens at a time when the world is still reeling from general semiconductor shortages (some 30% below demand levels). This results in used semiconductor manufacturing equipment - which according to some sources, was "worthless several years ago" - to now be flying from storage warehouses and directly onto factory floors as fast humanly possible. And sometimes, that equipment is acquired for a cool $1 million.

The litography equipment being bought-up (apparently, 90% of the available supply is headed to China) mostly churns out 200 mm wafers, as opposed to today's most modern processes' 300 mm. This means that it's not only the wafer etching machines that are required, but also all the other peripheral equipment that is indispensable to the manufacturing process, such as etching and cleansing machines. This has prompted certain companies, such as Canon, to re-release litography equipment for 200 mm processes - nine years after their last offering was put to sale. This could actually be a way to supplement existing semiconductor requirements, as not everything has to be in the cutting edge of semiconductor capabilities - the old "satisficing" adage could indeed prove a good solution to the increasing demand for semiconductors.
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12 Comments on China Gobbling Up Supply of Used Semiconductor Manufacturing Machines

#1
DeathtoGnomes
Wonder what the goal is there, if those machines produced crap years ago, whats gonna change there? make large amounts of fake semi-conductors? Flood the supply market to screwskew the prices?
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#2
IbaChiba
DeathtoGnomesWonder what the goal is there, if those machines produced crap years ago, whats gonna change there? make large amounts of fake semi-conductors? Flood the supply market to screwskew the prices?
maybe buy all the kinds of lithography equipment they can, find the highest quality, reverse engineer & scale up to 300mm? at least that's my crazy theory.
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#3
Raevenlord
News Editor
DeathtoGnomesWonder what the goal is there, if those machines produced crap years ago, whats gonna change there? make large amounts of fake semi-conductors? Flood the supply market to screwskew the prices?
Why is it crap? it's crap by today's high-performance computing standards, of course, but I don't think office spaces really require 7 nm CPUs with 8 cores. They'd make do just fine with 4 cores at 22 nm, 32 nm, whatever. I think we've been so blinded by progress that sometimes, we don't really stop to think of whether it's the end-all, be-all.

Imagine this, then: china gobbles up machinery for 200 mm wafers, and manages to produce enough DRAM (or some such) and CPUs to satisfy its non-critical domestic market. That's billions of people, potentially. Billions of people who won't be buying thelatest and greates out of TSMC or the western world. More wafers for you.
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#4
DeathtoGnomes
Raevenlordit's crap by today's high-performance computing standards
exactly what I was referring to. Ofcourse I didnt think about the office space application, but yea most accountants wear out a number pad on a keyboard faster than a gamer wears out a keyboard. I cant help but think china is intending something nefarious, or not. Everyone else hates the USA, why wouyld China think any different now?
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#5
Brusfantomet
RaevenlordWhy is it crap? it's crap by today's high-performance computing standards, of course, but I don't think office spaces really require 7 nm CPUs with 8 cores. They'd make do just fine with 4 cores at 22 nm, 32 nm, whatever. I think we've been so blinded by progress that sometimes, we don't really stop to think of whether it's the end-all, be-all.

Imagine this, then: china gobbles up machinery for 200 mm wafers, and manages to produce enough DRAM (or some such) and CPUs to satisfy its non-critical domestic market. That's billions of people, potentially. Billions of people who won't be buying thelatest and greates out of TSMC or the western world. More wafers for you.
Also remember that stuff like MCUs and simple logic chips absolutely do not need to be at the cutting edge.

Just as an example, low chip availability is decreasing car manufacturing

Not all of the controller chips in a car needs to be state of the art, and can probably be manufactured at a bigger node.
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#6
Wirko
China is buying these machines from Japan. The mains voltage in Japan is 100V. Once connected to a 220V power strip in China, will a machine:
(a) release the magic smoke, or
(b) start producing chips at twice the speed?
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#7
Caring1
WirkoChina is buying these machines from Japan. The mains voltage in Japan is 100V. Once connected to a 220V power strip in China, will a machine:
(a) release the magic smoke, or
(b) start producing chips at twice the speed?
Just a little hint, these machines do not plug in to an ordinary wall socket.
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#8
Wirko
Caring1Just a little hint, these machines do not plug in to an ordinary wall socket.
OK, I understand that much, and providing the right voltage is the least of problems. No one can put the machines to use without extensive and continuous support from their manufacturers, to help with installation, maintenance, fine tuning, improving yields, etc.
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#9
hat
Enthusiast
Mains voltage is hardly an issue. Mains voltage in the US is 120v, yet I regularly use equipment that runs on 480v.
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#10
Sir Alex Ice
This might not be a bad thing as the "crap" produced years ago included USB sticks that still work just fine, MLC SSDs that are storage center reliable, Intel 4690K CPUs that could be overclocked 35% and so on.
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#11
Gungar
Sir Alex IceThis might not be a bad thing as the "crap" produced years ago included USB sticks that still work just fine, MLC SSDs that are storage center reliable, Intel 4690K CPUs that could be overclocked 35% and so on.
They are buying machines not intellectual property, they can't do shit with the machines if they don't have the knowledge. And they certainly don't have the knowledge to do any Intel cpu.
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#12
Sir Alex Ice
And your point is what? I gave examples of good products done using that old tech. You have failed to be on topic.
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