ChangXin Memory Technologies (CXMT), one of China's three DRAM fabs, announced at the 2019 World Manufacturing Convention that it has started to mass produce its homemade DRAM chips.
The Chinese government has been pouring billions of U.S. dollars into the country's domestic memory industry with the objective of decreasing dependency on imports. However, Chinese DRAM makers have a long way to go before they can rival seasoned big names, such as Samsung, SK Hynix or Micron. According to TrendForce, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron were the key chipmakers in the the DRAM market in Q2, with 45.7%, 28.7% and 20.5% market share, respectively. Together, they owned 94.9% of the DRAM pie.
ChangXin Memory Technologies is going all in to not disappoint Beijing's expectations. The semiconductor company has reportedly invested approximately $21.1 billion into the DRAM project in addition to the $2.5 billion injected into research and development. ChangXin Memory Technologies has estimated a production capacity up to 120,000 wafers per month in its initial phase. It hopes to deliver them before the year ends.
From a engineering standpoint, ChangXin Memory Technologies has some catching up to do. The Chinese company's DRAM chip allegedly still relies on the 18nm manufacturing process, while its competitors have already advanced to the 16nm and 12nm process nodes. Word on the street is that ChangXin Memory Technologies' DRAM design borrowed inspiration from Qimonda's technology. However, the firm has made several modifications to the design in order to reduce the influence of U.S. technology. Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit, one of ChangXin Memory Technologies' comrades, reportedly had to cease production, due to the U.S. blocking the Chinese fab from acquiring U.S. components.
ChangXin Memory Technologies' entry into the market is a very interesting move that could gently shake up the market. If the fab can close the technological gap and ramp up production, we could see DRAM prices falling even more in a few years.