Chinese leading flash memory (NAND) chips manufacturer Yangtze Memory Technologies Corp (YMTC,长江存储) may postpone construction of its second wafer fab in Wuhan due to disruptions to its procurement supply chain, according to a source, reported SCMP on January 26.
Wei Shaojun, a semiconductor professor at Tsinghua University, praised China’s top NAND flash maker YMTC for its rival-beating innovation at a recent industry forum in Shenzhen, but cautioned that the country needs to divert its focus to mature technology development after the US imposed sanctions on exports of leading edge semiconductor tech to China.
Foreign chip experts say YMTC’s ability to achieve technology advancement and volume production will be hindered by its lack of free access to US chip-making tools and services, although the company is not expected to collapse immediately, said SCMP.
“It will be very difficult for the memory industry in China to continue to function going forward,” said Nicolas Gaudois, head of Asia Pacific Technology Research at UBS. “Obviously, it is limiting its ability to ramp up new capacity for advanced technologies.”
While it might be a milestone architecture for 3D NAND technology, YMTC’s inability to do business with top semiconductor equipment makers such as Lam Research – whose tools are important to memory chip makers – will mean its technology prowess is cast into question.
Research company TrendForce said in a research note that without the support of the key equipment providers, YMTC is now facing a huge technical obstacle in the development of its latest 3D NAND Flash technology known as Xtacking 3.0. In particular, raising yield rates for the 128 layer and 232 layer processes is going to be extremely challenging for the Chinese memory manufacturer.
YMTC may even postpone construction of its second wafer fab in Wuhan due to disruptions to its procurement supply chain, according to an industry source. Another industry expert, a former technician at Huawei, said YMTC was not short of lithography systems as it had bought several before the restrictions were imposed, but the challenge lies in etching tools from suppliers such as Lam Research. These tools are critical for the complex 3D NAND wafer fabrication process, especially as the company vies with competitors to add more layers to increase storage density, SCMP reported.
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