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China starts producing its own DRAM chips

After announcing home-grown CPUs and GPUs, China is now looking to enter the DRAM market, as well. (Source: GlobalBusinessOutlook)
After announcing home-grown CPUs and GPUs, China is now looking to enter the DRAM market, as well. (Source: GlobalBusinessOutlook)
The efforts to reduce the dependence on U.S. technology are constantly fueled with new developments endorsed by the Chinese government. After the Jhaoxin CPUs and the Jingjia Micro GPUs, China is now preparing to enter the memory market with the ChangXin DRAM modules that are expected to be available in 2020.

While the economic tensions between the U.S. and China have led many to believe that the 2008 crisis could return with a vengeance, there are also positive aspects that could influence the global markets in the long run. Ever since the U.S. started to impose all sorts of increased tariffs on Chinese exports and imports, China has been systematically focusing on decreasing its dependence on U.S.- imported products, especially in the high-tech sector. Earlier this year, the Chinese government was proudly announcing its first home-grown computer processors, and there also were reports of Chinese GPUs in the works. Now, the portfolio is expanded with the first memory modules produced by ChangXin Memory Technologies. This kind of developments are always good news for end users that could benefit from lower prices.

With the aid of the Chinese government, ChangXin managed to invest US$21.1 billion plus an additional US$2.5 billion in research and development in order to ramp up DRAM production capacity to 120,000 wafers per month. The initial production phase is scheduled for late 2019, and the company hopes to constantly increase the capacity throughout the coming years.

There are some limitations, still, as ChangXin is only able to fab its DRAM modules on 18 nm nodes, which are a step behind the 16 / 12 nm nodes used by the big players like Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron. These three companies already control 95% of the DRAM market, so it is obviously an uphill battle for ChangXin, but, as long as the Chinese company is offering competitive prices, the increased market share should soon follow.

The DRAM design specs used by ChangXin are apparently derived from Qimonda’s patents, but ChangXin ensured that these do not infringe on any U.S. semiconductor patents. The first commercial DRAM modules from ChangXin are expected to hit the market in 2020 and it will be interesting to see if these can help lower the global memory prices that are already starting to spike.

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Bogdan Solca, 2019-09-26 (Update: 2019-09-26)