SMIC prepared a couple of years ago to face the transition to the 7nm node, a goal that the well-known Chinese semiconductor manufacturer has been able to meet apparently without problems. However, when we stop to see the result obtained with this process, we realize that there are important nuances that make we are not really facing a 7nm nodeand according to a reverse engineering analysis, the Chinese company has copied key points from TSMC’s 7nm node.
We have said very important things in a very direct way, so let’s stop at delve into all these keys to better understand what is happening. According to a report filed by TechInsights, the 7nm chips supplied by SMIC, and found in the MinerVa Bitcoin Miner, have clear indications of being a close copy of the TSMC 7nm node, but at the same time they do not reach the level of the Taiwanese giant’s process, an important detail that confirms that not even by directly copying manufacturing nodes is it possible to catch up with a large when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing.
Although it is a close copy, the source of this information confirms that both TSMC, Samsung and Intel have manufacturing nodes in 7nm that are much more advanced than SMIC’s 7nm node, and that this would actually be two nodes behind despite the nomenclature used by the Chinese company. If we take the 7nm node as a starting point and go back two jumps considering only the most used manufacturing processes we arrive directly at the 12nm node.
What SMIC has developed is not a true 7nm process, though it could serve as a first step that would help the Chinese company shape a true 7nm node. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the system in which the “7nm” SoC manufactured by SMIC has been used is intended for mining, and has a total of 120 chips. This type of equipment can use less complex semiconductors, that is, they do not require a manufacturing node as advanced and complex as a high-performance CPU or GPU, so deep down SMIC has known how to play its cards perfectly.
We will see how this node evolves in the coming years, and we will also have to wait to see if TSMC decides to sue SMIC for copying their 7nm node. The Taiwanese company already sued the Chinese company in 2002 and 2006 for copies of its manufacturing technologies, so we cannot rule out a legal battle between the two again.