TSMC signs companies for 0.10 micron process

The semiconductor foundry has completed the basic modules for 0.10-micron manufacturing, which can pack more processing power on to a given chip space than previous technology, the company said in a statement. This gives TSMC the basic design rules for creating 0.10-micron products, as well as a schedule for starting up manufacturing. It expects to begin production in the third quarter of 2002.

The 0.10-micron process can be used to produce chips for a wide range of products. Examples could include data networking equipment, cell phones and Bluetooth wireless personal-area network modules, said TSMC spokesman J.H. Tzeng. It may help to produce "system on a chip" processors that take on tasks now carried out by a set of several chips. A system on a chip can provide higher performance at lower cost, for example, by integrating all of a cell phone's processing in a single chip, he said.

"If you want to reach lower cost and higher performance, you may look to a system on a chip," Tzeng said.

Semiconductor manufacturing has gradually advanced to smaller geometries, down to the current state of the art at 0.13 micron today. The 0.10 micron technology is the next step. The figure refers to the smallest gap that can be created between circuits on the surface of the chip. With each advance in technology, chips can be made physically smaller and with improved performance.

TSMC also said it is working with a number of IC (integrated circuit) companies to align the requirements of their chips with the foundry's efforts to develop the new process. Because the dense 0.10 technology allows IC companies to integrate more functions in to a single chip, the foundry has to work more closely with the chip designers. Closer cooperation will also reduce the time required to bring future products from design to market, TSMC said.

Also on Wednesday, TSMC said it completed in early April a pilot lot of 300-millimetre wafers using an all-copper, 0.13-micron manufacturing process. The 300-millimetre wafers are more cost-effective than the 200-millimetre wafers used in many manufacturing plants.

The pilot lot of wafers demonstrated a "reasonably good" yield of useable processors, the company said in a statement. Following the successful pilot, TSMC plans to test a few customers' 0.13-micron products on 300 mm wafers this month.

The 0.13-micron manufacturing line, like the 0.10-micron process, can be used to produce a wide range of different products based on vendors' needs, Tzeng said.

The 300-millimetre wafers will be the future "workhorse" technology for the foundry, TSMC said. At the end of last year, TSMC delivered its first 300 millimetre 0.13-micron wafers for customers.

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Stephen Lawson

PC World
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