It was reported on March 24 that the Japanese government will invest 42 billion yen to jointly develop the 2nm advanced process technology with the three major semiconductor manufacturers in Japan – Canon, Tokyo Electronics and Screen Semiconductor Solutions. According to people familiar with the matter, Japanese semiconductor makers will also establish partnerships with leading international manufacturers such as TSMC, seeking to regain lost ground in the global semiconductor race.
Open the road of advanced process research and development
Recently, the research and development of advanced semiconductor process technology has been hot, and a few leading semiconductor manufacturers such as TSMC and Samsung have already begun to compete for hegemony in the 3nm ~ 2nm process node. The European Union, which has been “sleeping” in advanced process research and development for a long time, has also recently started the idea of 2nm node, trying to reduce its dependence on other countries’ semiconductor manufacturing processes through a series of customized plans.
Industrialization progress of major international manufacturers in semiconductor photoresist products
Source: Public information on the official website of each company
Under the background that manufacturers from various countries have deployed advanced manufacturing technology, Japan, which does not have an advantage in advanced wafer manufacturing technology, seems to have awakened this time. The latest news shows that Japan’s three major semiconductor suppliers have drawn up plans to jointly develop advanced chip manufacturing technology.
It is understood that this plan will jointly develop 2nm advanced process technology with Canon, which manufactures lithography machines, Tokyo Electronics, a semiconductor manufacturer, and Screen Semiconductor Solutions, a semiconductor equipment manufacturer.
The Japanese government will also provide relevant support for the three Japanese semiconductor manufacturers from the national level. According to public information, the three companies will cooperate with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). It is worth mentioning that METI will provide about 42 billion yen (386 million U.S. dollars) of financial support for manufacturers in the research and development of advanced process technology, aiming to develop semiconductor manufacturing technology of nodes below 2nm, and set up test production lines, research and development. Manufacturing technologies such as processing and cleaning of fine circuits.
In addition to leveraging local strength, Canon, Tokyo Electronics and Screen Semiconductor Solutions will also build a cooperation system with overseas manufacturers such as TSMC, hoping to restore Japan’s leading position in advanced semiconductor technology research and development through the help of foreign aid.
Planned for wafer manufacturing
Japan’s layout in the field of advanced wafer manufacturing is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, as early as May 2020, news about the Japanese government’s invitation to foreign chip manufacturers to build wafer factories in Japan has been repeated. However, what makes the Japanese government a little bit lonely is that TSMC later decided to build a factory in the United States, which to a certain extent disrupted Japan’s layout plan in the field of wafer manufacturing.
Although the wafer manufacturing “foreign aid plan” failed, Japan still did not give up TSMC as a potential partner, and instead launched an offensive in advanced packaging and other fields, hoping to lay a good foundation for future cooperation in the field of advanced wafer manufacturing. In January this year, news about the establishment of a joint venture between Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and TSMC spread like wildfire. It is reported that the company’s advanced packaging and testing plant will be located in Tokyo, and Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan will also set up a new technology research and development center for TSMC. The research and development content mainly involves wafer process research and development and 3D packaging.
Behind Japan’s frequent attacks on the wafer manufacturing field is the full confidence in the upstream links of advanced technology. Japan has great advantages in the field of semiconductor materials. Taking the EUV lithography process, which is indispensable in the chip manufacturing process, as an example, many Japanese manufacturers have participated in this process. For example, only Japanese manufacturers in the world can provide EUV photoresist. According to a recent report released by NTU Optoelectronics, only five Japanese manufacturers, Tokyo Oka, Synthetic Rubber (JSR), Sumitomo Chemical, Shin-Etsu Chemical and Fujifilm, can produce EUV photoresist, which is indispensable in the EUV lithography process. Japan The market share of the company in the field of EUV photoresist is 100%.
Another Japanese company that occupies 100% of the market share is Tokyo Electron, which participated in the advanced process research and development plan this time. The EUV coating and developing equipment produced by Tokyo Electronics Co., Ltd. can coat a special chemical liquid on the silicon wafer and develop it as a semiconductor material.
By taking advantage of the deep accumulation in the field of semiconductor materials and the help of the three major semiconductor manufacturers and foreign aid such as TSMC, can Japan realize its dream of advanced manufacturing? Wait for the time to give an answer.