Financial world: Japan’s MSG juggernaut to dominate the global chip

After 8 months of chip outages, Huawei is now having a tougher and tougher time. In the past two days, the mainland media reported that the phones in Huawei’s experience stores are “selling one less than one”, and the lack of core has become a mantra for salesmen. However, when Huawei is sad because of the lack of “core”, the IT giant IBM released an exciting news on the 6th, has developed the world’s first 2nm chip technology, this news, to let last year just achieved 14nm mass production of Chinese chips how embarrassed?

In the chip industry, the giants in technology when you catch up with me, the former chip industry leader – Japan, but seems to be out of the picture, acting very low-key, but, although the Japanese chip industry has fallen, but there is a production of monosodium glutamate Japanese food factory, but still rely on “a fresh trick “the technology stuck in the global chip manufacturing lifeline.

Today’s topic, is the chip. We look at the chip world’s leading children, almost concentrated in the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, the Netherlands and other such countries, but in fact, in the 1980s and 1990s, the global chip industry is the boss of Japan, Japan’s chips once occupied 80% of the global market. In the late eighties, the rapid development of the Japanese chip industry almost made Intel can not survive, but in the nineties, the Japanese chip industry began to go downhill, like Toshiba, Fujitsu, these big-name chip makers also withdrew from the chip market.

So, why the decline of the Japanese semiconductor industry? A Japanese semiconductor industry R & D engineer, once wrote a book called “lost manufacturing”, the book, the reason for the decline of the Japanese chip to five words – “the pursuit of high quality”, the author believes that the market would have required 2 to 3 years to The author believes that the market needed 2 to 3 years to update the chip, but Japan made it 25 years. We know that a product to do 80 points easy, but to improve from 80 points to 90 points, but very difficult, so the author of the book believes that the Japanese chip industry is the pursuit of technology to win, defeating themselves.

A Japanese monosodium glutamate factory stuck in the neck of the global chip community?

But also because of this pursuit of technology to win, there is a production of monosodium glutamate company, mastered a “one-trick pony” technology, and this technology allows this food company to run to the chip industry domination for decades, in the words of some media, is stuck in the neck of the global semiconductor industry. This Japanese monosodium glutamate factory, is the originator of Japanese monosodium glutamate – Ajinomoto.

Ajinomoto has a history of more than 100 years, the earliest is a production of monosodium glutamate, but later developed into a food and biotechnology company, like the production of seasonings, cooking oil, pharmaceuticals, etc., some products in the overseas market share also ranked first. At the end of last year, when the global chip crisis opened, Ajinomoto also came into the media spotlight, because one of the factors that caused the chip shortage crisis was due to the shortage of substrates, and this Ajinomoto company, one of its businesses is the production of substrate core material ABF, and, Ajinomoto also monopolized 90% of the market share, has been a dominant player for many years.

This core material, ABF, is a by-product of Ajinomoto’s production of MSG, and can be used to make a resin-like synthetic material with extremely high insulating properties, ABF stacking film.

Before Ajinomoto’s ABF, the industry often used the method of coating chips with liquid insulating substance, and had to wait for the liquid to dry before proceeding to the next step, which was not only time-consuming and labor-intensive, but also had a high error rate, while Ajinomoto’s ABF stacking film perfectly solved these problems by turning into a thin film-like heat-resistant insulating substance after processing, which is not only self-forming, but most critically, easy to install and time-saving.

Moreover, ABF also greatly saves the chip cost, we know the chip manufacturing investment is very huge, like lithography, labor costs, technology research and development, material procurement, etc., may easily billions, tens of billions of dollars. Without Ajinomoto’s ABF, the cost may be even higher.

Now, Ajinomoto’s ABF has been applied to almost all aspects of the semiconductor industry, such as Samsung, Apple and all computers, as well as automotive AI, 5G chips, etc., without ABF, these almost all can not be manufactured, because the chip is high-end, no ABF is no way to package completed.

Not long ago, a number of mainland media have also piled up the introduction of this Japanese MSG factory, of course, immediately sang the opposite, saying that this is “elite Japanese” argument, is long others, the reason is that ABF is not even considered a barrier technology, Chinese companies can do, just do not want to do, because the profits are too small. Then we also go a little farther here, when it comes to this “elite Japanese”, the Communist Party leader Mao Zedong should be a proper elite Japanese, because Mao Zedong on several occasions have expressed gratitude to Japan, that without the Japanese invasion of China, the Chinese Communist Party could not seize power.

Back to ABF, in fact, although the technical production of ABF is not completely unattainable, but in two points, cost and technology, Ajinomoto has made them to the extreme. First of all, cost control, Ajinomoto was able to keep the profit of ABF low enough to achieve a large and thin volume, so it is difficult for other companies to compete and achieve profitability; another point is that the technology is high enough, the more advanced the process of the chip, the smaller the circuit width, the corresponding insulation materials occupy the smaller the gap, to achieve this point, but also requires excellence.

Ajinomoto started to develop ABF material in 1996, and more than twenty years of technology has made Ajinomoto’s ABF irreplaceable.

It seems that Japanese companies always have the patience to do a skill to the extreme, compared to Chinese companies, although not less shouted independent innovation, but always let people feel a little less “essence, energy, spirit”. Last November, Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei also mentioned in the staff meeting, in the materials industry, manufacturing industry to learn from Japan, and said that China’s industrial atmosphere is more impatient, although Ren Zhengfei love to talk big, but in this point, Ren Zhengfei really said the big truth.

After four rounds of U.S. sanctions Huawei under 3,000 yuan models extinct

Next, let’s see how Ren Zhengfei’s Huawei phones are doing.

In the past few days, some mainland media have visited Huawei’s experience stores and reported that almost every Huawei phone is out of stock, with incomplete configurations and colors, and that phones under 3,000 yuan are hard to find in all stores.

A salesperson at a Huawei store in Beijing said that all stores in Beijing or in China are in a similar situation, with only two or three models in stock, the worst being only one model, and the number in stock is almost always in the single digits. This situation of no goods to sell, and with it, the staff’s wages have also fallen off a cliff, according to the store sales themselves, the current basic is only a guaranteed salary.

In fact, from November last year, Huawei store cell phone models out of stock has begun, there are also informed sources said that Huawei’s existing chip reserves, perhaps to allow Huawei’s high-end cell phones to at least adhere to the end of this year. Now looking at the countdown to the chip inventory, for Huawei, selling less every day, but also better than soon not have to sell, so lower shipments, perhaps a way for Huawei to ensure that the phone series can still stay in the market.

For the current situation, Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business department, sent a few words in the circle of friends can be described as truthful, he said, after four rounds of sanctions in the United States, now the high-end market of Huawei cell phones to Apple, while the middle and low-end to Samsung, OPPO, VIVO, Xiaomi these brands. It seems that, in the face of reality, Huawei had a period of time last year to be self-reliant ambition has also worn out.

Although Yu Chengdong said quite sad, but a considerable number of netizens do not seem to buy, in the discussion of Huawei experience store shortage of comments section, someone said, after getting rid of Samsung, sold more expensive than anyone else, but also did not see what concessions to their own people, sympathy for what?

Remember a few years ago, the background is deep Huawei, all the way to the rapid rise of speed is like riding on a roller coaster. From the time of 2017, Huawei smartphone sales, in the Chinese market has ranked first, the most bullish time is every 3 smartphones sold, one is Huawei; by the second quarter of last year, Huawei has exceeded Samsung, for the first time the quarterly champion of global shipments.

However, without the chip, Huawei’s mobile business has declined as fast as it has risen, and in the first quarter just past, we saw that Huawei was no longer visible in the top five global smartphone shipments.

Now is, Huawei’s own design Kirin chip no one OEM, to find MediaTek and Qualcomm to buy the road is also blocked, some industry insiders believe that Huawei chip crisis if it has not been resolved, then Huawei’s overall chip reserves, may only survive until the first half of next year …… next year’s cell phone market, it is likely to see no Huawei up?

From 14 nanometers to 2 nanometers China to run how many years?

So, what is Huawei going to use to solve the chip crisis? This problem, may make many people shake their heads, it is really difficult, because the level of China’s chip is still in the second tier, three generations behind, SMIC just last year to achieve 14 nanometers mass production, to develop to like 7 nanometers and 5 nanometers, it may take 5 to 10 years of time. And Huawei’s flagship model released last year, is using a 5nm chip, in the rapid development of smartphones, Huawei can afford to wait?

As early as 1996, more than forty countries, including Europe, the United States and Asia, have signed a Wassenaar Agreement, prohibiting the export of highly sophisticated key technologies to communist countries, including high-end photolithography for manufacturing chips, of course, the Chinese Communist Party is among the banned countries.

In March, the mainland media enthusiastically reported the news that SMIC had bought a photolithography machine from Asmac Shanghai for $7.7 billion, which sounded like good news, but then a report poured cold water on it, saying, “Don’t get excited yet! Why?

Many people know that Asmac is the world’s largest photolithography manufacturer, this company accounts for 85% of the market share of high-end photolithography below 45nm, and in the field of EUV photolithography is an absolute monopoly, and this EUV photolithography is mainly used in 7nm and below process chips, but SMIC is not qualified to buy this photolithography, even if SMIC is willing to spend more Even if SMIC is willing to spend money, it can’t buy it. However, SMIC has only achieved 14nm now, so even if SMIC bought it, it can’t break through the technical hardness.

But in addition to this core lithography, SMIC can buy other models of lithography, such as DUV deep ultraviolet lithography, but this kind of lithography, the process range can only go to 25 nanometers, some professionals say, in fact, this kind of lithography can also do 7 nanometer process, but the cost will be very huge.

Remember Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei once said in an interview, China’s chip design capabilities and manufacturing processes are very strong, China can not make high-end chips, just because the photolithography is stuck in the neck …… but with the photolithography on the line?

In the chip design must also have a necessary tool – EDA software, but this software is monopolized by U.S. companies, before, to provide Huawei with EDA design software three U.S. companies, have terminated the cooperation with Huawei, even if Huawei can still use the previous version of the design chip, but compared to the latest version of the designed chip, in performance On will also lose competitiveness.

So, it seems that the presence of lithography is not the key to save Huawei, if Huawei wants to continue to exist in the cell phone market next year, the obstacles to cross is not small.

However, innovation in the field of technology is always changing, no matter what kind of industry giants, such as Nokia or Motorola or, a flash God, had to exit the jungle.

We see, in Huawei hurt “core” when the chip technology has ushered in a technological leap, May 6, the IT giant IBM released a message on its official website, announcing that it has developed the world’s first 2nm chip technology. As you know, only TSMC and Samsung have now achieved the development of 3nm process chips, and they have not achieved mass production. Of course, this does not mean that IBM now also has the ability to mass-produce 2 nanometer chips, according to industry analysis, it may take until 2025, 2 nanometer chips to have mass production conditions.

IBM cited some specific examples, such as the ability to improve the performance of autonomous driving, cell phone battery life can be extended by three times, the user may charge once with about four days, and so on.

As we mentioned just now, SMIC just implemented 14nm mass production last year, so under heavy siege, how many years will it take for the CPC to run from 14nm to 2nm?