The United States issued four export restrictions last week to prevent the outflow of key semiconductor technologies. The measures are considered to be restraining the development of advanced manufacturing processes in the mainland China chip industry. 

Prior to these restrictions, China purchased a large amount of authorized Electronic design automation or EDA software (also known as electronic computer-aided design, or ECAD). The software must establish a connection with the developer for licensing upgrades. This can be effectively controlled by the United States.

 Although China’s IC design does not need GAA EDA in the short term, it is necessary to develop an advanced 3 nanometers process design within 3 to 5 years. Without US-based EDA tools, Chinese IC design will experience developmental difficulties from initial chip design to back-end system design. 

The export of EDA software below 3 nanometers is the most significant limitation, raising the question: Can the mainland’s local EDA manufacturers fill the gap? The limits are thought to force the mainland chip sector to create cutting-edge techniques.

Some experts contend that the mainland EDA market is still in its beginning stage and that no single manufacturer is capable of taking on the entire EDA industry chain.

According to Bloomberg, ​​EDA software is used to develop integrated circuits with gate-all-around field-effect transistors, or GAAFET, structure. They are relevant in military and commercial development and even aerospace defense. 

Known as the “mother of all chips,” manufacturers must use it in chip design. The EDA software is used to develop the GAAFET architecture below 3 nanometers. Samsung’s 3 nanometers process uses the GAA architecture, and TSMC’s 3 nanometers process still uses the FinFET architecture.

According to data from the research institute TrendForce last year, European and American manufacturers currently monopolize the global EDA market. The top three giants are Synopsys 32%, Cadence 30%, and Siemens 13%, which account for about 75% of the total market share.

Lin Kaipeng, senior vice president of Guowei Sierxin Group, said that although some companies were competitive in individual nodes or technical fields, the disadvantage was that they were not comprehensive enough. No manufacturer had the ability to undertake the entire EDA industry chain, and the inability to provide a full range of products was the most important problem in the domestic EDA industry.

According to Yang Ye, product and business director at Xinhuazhang Technology, it is essential to maintain an open mindset and foster company collaboration in the early stages of industrial development. Instead of focusing on achieving even greater perfection, they should concentrate on doing what they do best and creating the ecosystem as a whole.

Chinese foundries also need to use EDA, and the restrictions put in place by US-based equipment and software bans may impact the long-term growth of China’s semiconductor industry.

Meanwhile, the MIT Technology Review claims this will become the next battlefront in the U.S.-China chip war. 

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