- Aug 3, 2021
In an effort to reduce the use and dependence on American technology, Huawei allegedly prepared to launch the “Tashan Project” internally. This project, in correspondence with other organizations, aims to construct a 45nm chip production line without the influence of American products. Additionally, it also looks to research into an independent 28nm chip production line.
Huawei Tashan project
Verified Weibo blogger “Peng Peng Jun Drive” brought this information to light on his account yesterday. Speculations around the Tashan Project traveled across tech and media circles and seem to be based on Huawei’s past comments and actions.
A few days ago, Huawei’s CEO of Consumer BG, Mr. Yu Chengdong said “Huawei will take root in all aspects of semiconductors” and equivocally added, “Huawei only did chip design, not chip manufacturing.”
Two years ago, during the US entity list ban, Huawei owned HiSilicon’s chips were able to turn normal very quickly. Employees at Lenovo voiced the possibility that Huawei might already have manufactured chips.
Despite this, HiSilicon insiders came forward to say that neither they nor their colleagues have ever heard of the Tashan Project. Following this, Peng Peng Jun Drive removed he original Weibo from his home page and at 6:30 pm added, “It is true that Huawei takes root in semiconductors, but chip manufacturing is a very complex project. It may be difficult to fully explain the specific progress. Only the closest to the supply chain can know the most.”
The question now is about the feasibility of a project like the Tashan Project.
Wafer manufacturing is a far more complex process than chip manufacturing. Even the aim of completing 45nm chips in the production line is dubious. While chip design relies on light assets, wafer manufacturing relies heavily on multiple supply chains.
Investments in the wafer fab can run into the billions, and building a dust-free factory even with TSMC technology takes at least 13 months – it would be impossible to build a factory of this scale before the end of the year. The simpler route is to buy a factory, but even that is not easy, and the semi-conductors of only Hua Hong and SMIC can achieve 45nm in China at the moment.
Additionally, there is the problem of equipment; wafer manufacturing demands glue coating, oxidation furnace, ion implanter, etching machines, lithography machines – and a doze other specialized infrastructure that needs to be carefully inspected. A fallout or block in any one of these could hamper the entire project.
It comes to stand, therefore, that with all the checks and balances, requirements, and investment needed for a project of this scale, it would be quite impossible for the Tashan Project to reach fruition before the end of the year.
Huawei Naniwan project
However, Huawei is moving ahead with its vision to reduce American dependency with the introduction of the “Naniwan Project”. Although this project has not formally been backed yet, members from the Huawei Xinsheng community have started recruiting people internally. Various posts within the community talk about an “emergency recruitment” expected to gain quick approval. Considering recent developments, the existence of the Naniwan Project is not absolutely groundless.
“Naniwan” derives from the “Naniwan Mass production movement” which consisted of large-scale production activities conducted by the army based in Naniwan during the anti-Japanese war. The root of this movement lay in self-reliance in production and long-lasting resistance. It is likely that the Naniwan Project emphasizes the growth and persistence of home-grown products, building the foundation for a long-term future.
Under this plan, everything from the most basic cell phones to the most advanced smart screens would fall in the purview of domestic products, thereby successfully establishing an independent production process. Presently, for the success of the project, Huawei must enter the display driver chip market.
According to the financial association, Mr. Yu Chengdong issued the document “Notice on the Establishment of the Terminal Chip Business Unit in the Field of Display Driver Products” on August 11th. It calls for the formation of a display driver chip and component team, with several departments and roles outlined. While there is an immense demand for display driver chips, of the 6 billion chips purchased by FANG, less than 5% came from domestic Chinese producers.
This chip is integral for LED display and is used in almost all everyday tech products from phones to Tablets to Notebooks. Huawei has manufactured this chip, and it has entered the market now. This assures a stable supply and a deviation from the dependence of upstream suppliers.
Huawei is also prioritizing on building a global ecology of the HMS or Huawei mobile service. The HMS provides services such as cloud space and wallet to cell phone users. On 29th July, the financial association corroborated on Huawei’s HMS ecological priority. Insiders claim that 2500 of the top 3000 applications are now supported by HMS. At the global platform, it is Google’s GMS that currently rules the market. Without GMS authorization, Google apps cannot be pre-downloaded onto phones.
Chairman Xu Zhijun has said, “Building an HMS ecosystem is the fastest solution. The state that mobile phones are not available overseas is the top priority and the highest priority task. “
The Jiaotong University, Fudan University, Southeast University, and Nanjing University were visited by a team led by CEO Ren Zhengfei on July 30th. They expressed their objective to aid a deep-rooted integration of scientific research with the industry. Considering the knowledge and access these universities have in information and technology, it is suspected that Huawei may be hiring people from these universities for the Naniwan project.
However, the success of the Naniwan project still depends on a number of factors. Huawei still uses Intel chips and Windows, both of which are American. Sanctions and bans against Chinese products also stand to be a deterrent.