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Why China is Betting Big on Chiplets

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A chiplet.

Chiplets are smaller and more specialized than standard chips, so they are cheaper to manufacture and less likely to malfunction.

Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

For the past couple of years, U.S. sanctions have had the Chinese semiconductor industry locked in a stranglehold. While Chinese companies can still manufacture chips for today's uses, they are not allowed to import certain chipmaking technologies, making it almost impossible for them to produce more advanced products.

There is a workaround, however. A relatively new technology known as chiplets is now offering China a way to circumvent these export bans, build a degree of self-reliance, and keep pace with other countries, particularly the U.S.

In the past year, both the Chinese government and venture capitalists have been focused on propping up the domestic chiplet industry. Academic researchers are being incentivized to solve the cutting-edge issues involved in chiplet manufacturing, while some chiplet startups, like Polar Bear Tech, have already produced their first products.

In contrast to traditional chips, which integrate all components on a single piece of silicon, chiplets take a modular approach. Each chiplet has a dedicated function, like data processing or storage; they are then connected to become one system. Since each chiplet is smaller and more specialized, it's cheaper to manufacture and less likely to malfunction. At the same time, individual chiplets in a system can be swapped out for newer, better versions to improve performance, while other functional components stay the same.

From MIT Technology Review
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