China is actively exploring ways to produce high-bandwidth memory (HBM), which is the next-generation of memory chips designed for artificial intelligence (AI) processors. This initiative is part of China's semiconductor self-sufficiency drive as it faces US sanctions. While catching up with global leaders like SK Hynix, Samsung Electronics, and Micron Technology may present challenges due to the impact of sanctions, the Chinese government is committed to achieving self-sufficiency in HBMs, even if it may take several years.

ChangXin Memory Technologies (CXMT), China's top dynamic random access memory (DRAM) manufacturer, is seen as the country's best hope for producing HBMs, although it could take up to four years for their products to enter the market. Should CXMT or other Chinese chip makers move forward, they may be limited to using less advanced technologies to manufacture DRAM chips, which are currently in high demand globally.

HBM chips are crucial for overcoming memory transfer speed restrictions caused by bandwidth limitations, making them the preferred solution. Demand for HBM chips is expected to grow by nearly 60% in 2023, according to a report by tech consultancy TrendForce. SK Hynix, with a 50% global market share, developed HBM3 technology and entered mass production in 2022. Similarly, the company recently announced the successful development of HBM3E, the next-generation high-end DRAMs for AI applications, with mass production scheduled for the first half of 2024.

Nvidia, another major player, has utilized HBM chips to accelerate data transfers between graphic processing units (GPUs) and memory stacks, setting a new industry standard. HBM vertically stacks memory chips, reducing the distance information needs to travel. Besides SK Hynix, Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology are also dominant players in the HBM market.

Although the production of HBM chips does not necessarily require cutting-edge lithography technology such as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) tools, it does rely on high-density packaging technologies like through-silicon-via (TSV). China has relatively advanced players in this field, such as Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology. While global peers are already working on sub-10-nm nodes, CXMT can currently produce DRAMs at the 17 to 19-nanometer node and is expected to leverage its capabilities in a similar manner to how China is producing 28-nm logic chips.

Overall, China's ambitions to produce high-bandwidth memory chips showcase its determination to achieve semiconductor self-sufficiency, despite the challenges posed by US sanctions. By leveraging its own technology and through collaborations with domestic players, China aims to become a key player in the HBM market in the coming years.