Chips are manufactured on wafers, large disks of silicon, that have hundreds of chips printed on them. The larger the wafer, the more chips can be made from it. Currently, Intel uses a 200 millimeter wafer. Microns are the width of the circuit lines printed onto the chips; the smaller the width the better the performance.
Deriving more chips from a wafer will result, long-term, in lower chip prices and greater availability, said Howard High, a spokesman for Intel. Monday's announcement represents a milestone, as Intel has been able to produce a wafer from the new manufacturing process, he said. Such an accomplishment indicates that Intel is still committed to the 300 millimeter process, High said.
The techniques used to make the wafer announced Monday are slated to be introduced into Intel's product line in early 2002, he said.
Along with the benefits of the larger wafer, the smaller micron size will translate to more chips per wafer, as well as faster, cheaper and more reliable chips, High said.
To illustrate the projected evolution of the chips, High said that the Pentium III, a 0.25 micron chip, ran at about 600MHz. The Pentium 4, a 0.18 micron chip using the process employed today, runs at up to 1.5GHz currently and will hit 2GHz by the end of the year. The 0.13 micron chips, however, will use copper rather than aluminum wiring and are likely to run as fast as 3GHz to 4GHz in the next year or two, High said.