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Semiconductors: Export Controls on EDA Software Will Hurt Chinese Chip Manufacturers

By Dick Weisinger

Today’s computer chips can contain more than a billion transistors, and because of their complexity are only possible to layout using sophisticated electronic design automation (EDA) software. On August 12, 2022, the US Commerce Department announced a ban on EDA tools being shipped to China and 150 other countries. For example, software sales from vendors like Synopsys, Kaden Electronics, and Mentor Graphic will be blocked from being sold into the Chinese market.

This is the third time a ban on EDA software has gone into effect. In 2018 there was a ban on software sold to ZTE, and in 2019 a ban was placed on Huawei. This time the ban is on all Chinese companies.

Xiaomeng Lu, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, said that “the previous round of restrictions on Huawei was so successful [that] they found this to be the track to pursue.”

Hong Shibin, an IT industry expert, told the Beijing Business Today, that “the US wants China to be stopped at 5-nm in chip design and 7-nm in chip manufacturing so China’s growth in high-speed computing and artificial intelligence will slow.”

Without access to advanced EDA tools, Chinese IC design will be challenged in creating advanced chip designs and the ban is likely to have a major impact on the Chinese semiconductor industry.

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