The US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has ramped China export controls in moves that will likely impact a broader swathe of the semiconductor sector.
Companies affected are likely to including leading chipmaking equipment vendors including Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA and ASML Holding as well as non-US chipmakers selling to China.
The rules set new thresholds for technologies and use cases that require licenses from the US. It also requires chipmakers to obtain a licence from the Department of Commerce to export to China certain advanced chips made outside of the US using US chipmaking equipment.
In addition, 31 Chinese companies have been added to an “unverified” export control list including Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. Ltd. (YMTC). Unverified means that the US government has been unable to complete an end-use check to be sure that products being supported are not being supplied to Chinese military. Telecommunications giant Huawei and China’s leading foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. were among the first semiconductor-related firms to be targeted by the US. YMTC is China’s most successful memory maker to date and was on the brink of becoming an approved vendor of 3D-NAND flash to Apple.
The chip export rules cover certain high-performance chips and components used in the construction of supercomputers.
The latest thresholds mean that supplies to almost all Chinese manufacturing sites making advanced digital chips now require US licenses. Licenses for facilities owned by PRC entities will face a “presumption of denial,’ and facilities owned by multinationals will be decided on a case-by-case basis, BIS said.
The manufacturing site thresholds that now require licensing: logic chips with non-planar transistors – FinFET and GAAFET (gate-all-around FET) at 16nm or 14nm and below; DRAM chips with 18nm half-pitch or less; NAND flash memory chips with 128 layers or more. In August YMTC announced a 232-layer NAND which, if manufacturable in volume, would put YMTC in the lead in 3D-NAND flash.
The US government claims the updated restrictions are necessary to protect national security and foreign policy interests. China objects to the measures arguing they are an attempt by the US to use its position in science and technology unfairly to maintain leadership. China points out that the rules will also hurt US chip vendors and equipment vendors.
The US-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) made this comment: “We understand the goal of ensuring national security and urge the US government to implement the rules in a targeted way – and in collaboration with international partners – to help level the playing field and mitigate unintended harm to US innovation.”
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