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Huawei develops design tools for chips

Writer:   |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-03-27

Huawei Technologies Co. has made breakthroughs in electronic design automation (EDA) tools for chips produced at and above 14-nanometer technology, a crucial step forward for China’s semiconductor industry amid U.S. restrictions.

Xu Zhijun, rotating chairman of Shenzhen-based Huawei, said the company has completed the localization of EDA tools for chips above 14nm by teaming up with domestic partners and will complete testing on the tools this year.

Domestic media reported Friday that Xu made the speech Feb. 28 and Huawei has developed 78 tools related to chip hardware and software.

Dubbed the “cradle” of integrated circuits, EDA is a software widely used in the sector and is of great importance to the entire process of designing chips.

Chip design companies use EDA software to produce the blueprints for chips before they are mass manufactured at fabs.

China has long relied on U.S. companies for EDA tools. The EDA tools for 14nm chips are considered midrange products but it still marks a breakthrough, China Daily quoted unnamed experts as saying Saturday.

The EDA software market is dominated by three firms — Cadence Design Systems Inc. and Synopsys Inc., which are headquartered in the United States, and Mentor Graphics, which is owned by Germany’s Siemens AG.

Huawei, a major supplier of equipment used in 5G telecommunications networks, has been the target of successive rounds of U.S. export controls since 2019, restricting its supply of chips and chip-design tools from U.S. companies.

China is home to a handful of domestic EDA software makers, but experts do not consider them globally competitive.

All three overseas EDA companies fell subject to Washington’s sanctions against Huawei in 2020.

When the restrictions went into effect, Huawei’s chip design division lost access to software and updates that would enable it to design low-node processors for its smartphones, as well as access to advanced manufacturing tools at chip production fabs.

According to a transcript of Xu’s remarks, Huawei cooperated with domestic EDA companies to create the software, “basically realizing the localization of EDA tools above 14nm.”

Huawei will also let partners and customers use the software, according to Xu.

The announcement comes as Huawei and other Chinese technology companies rush to localize their supply chains in the face of mounting U.S. sanctions.

Xu said that although Huawei has achieved many breakthroughs in product development tools over the past three years, it still faces formidable challenges.

Huawei will redouble its efforts to attract more global talents in order to achieve a strategic breakthrough in the area, he said.