South Korean blank mask maker S&S Tech is seeing high demand for its blank mask thanks to the high interest and development of AI chips spurred by ChatGPT.
Blank masks are used to make photo masks, which are used during the lithography process in chip production where the pattern of the chips is printed on the wafer.
The high popularity of ChatGPT has increased the number of fabless companies in China that are developing AI chips.
Blank mask export has increased by 20% in January compared to a year ago, sources said.
Particularly, based on revenue, those exported to China have increased by 50% over the same time period, they said.
S&S Tech is the only blank mask producer in South Korea and is seeing high demand for high-end blank masks.
The global blank mask market is dominated by Japan’s Hoya, Ulcoat, and Asahi Glass.
Depending on whether there is a transmittance film, blank masks are divided into binary masks and phase shift masks, with the latter having a film.
Phase shift masks are used in advanced chips as too strong a light being consistently exposed on the wafer prevents the drawing of finer patterns, which phase shifting can control.
According to the China Semiconductor Industry Association, there were 3,243 fabless chip companies near the end of 2022, higher by around 1,000 from the year prior.
These companies, particularly those developing AI chips, are looking for high-quality blank masks, the sources said.
S&S Tech last year recorded 123.3 billion won in revenue and 15.6 billion won in operating income, an increase of 24.8% and 24.5%, respectively, from 2021.