TSMC offers way to make faster, cheaper chips

TSMC says its 55-nm process technology can make chips cheaper, faster and consume less power

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world's largest contract chip maker, is offering companies a way to make chips that are faster, consume less power and cost less than is possible with 65-nanometer (nm) process technology.

Process technology is the chip maker's recipe for making chips. Generally described in nanometers, or billionths of a meter, these numbers refer to the average size of a feature that can be created on the chip.

At present, the most advanced process used for production is the 65-nm process. The next major advance in process technology is a shift to 45nm, which is expected to start later this year when Intel begins producing microprocessors with that process.

But TSMC says its ready to begin making chips with a 55-nm process that can be used with "minimal risk and effort" to manufacture chips designed for the 65-nm process. The 55-nm process will allow chip vendors to benefit from advances in technology, while gearing up for an eventual shift to a 45-nm process.

"The process delivers significant die cost savings from 65nm, while offering the same speed and 10 to 20 percent lower power consumption," TSMC said in a statement.

A die is the segment of a silicon wafer that becomes an individual chip. Reducing the die size shrinks per-unit manufacturing costs because more chips can be produced on a single wafer.

TSMC will be ready to begin production using the 55-nm process from early May.

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