AMD, UMC partner on Singapore wafer fab

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and contract chip manufacturer United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) will form a joint venture company that will own and operate a new wafer manufacturing plant in Singapore, the companies said Thursday.

The fabrication plant, or fab, will manufacture 300-millimeter silicon wafers, which are the sheets of silicon from which computer chips are cut. Using the larger wafers can cut manufacturing costs by about a third compared with the 200-millimeter wafers used widely today, the companies said.

The companies expect to begin production in 2005 on chips manufactured using a 0.065-micron manufacturing process, they said. Most PC chips today are manufactured using 0.18-micron and the smaller 0.13-micron processes. The dimensions correspond roughly to the width of circuits etched on the surface of chips, and smaller dimensions allow for faster chips that produce less heat.

Approximately half of the wafers made at the plant will be used to make chips for AMD, with the remainder manufactured under contract for other companies, said AMD spokesman John Greenagel. UMC is the world's second-largest contract manufacturer of chips, after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC).

The fab will be run by a joint venture formed between the companies called AU Pte. Ltd., and will be used for making PC processors and other logic chips. The companies also plan to work together in the development of advanced process technologies for semiconductor logic products, the companies said.

Under a related agreement, UMC will produce in its own plant 0.13-micron and smaller versions of AMD chips, augmenting AMD's own fab in Dresden, Germany.

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