United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), the world’s second-largest contract chip maker, said Thursday it’s seeing strong demand from a variety of customers for production of chips with feature sizes as tiny as 65 nanometers.
The advance in chip technology is important as users demand ever-smaller, multifunction devices. Chips made using 65-nanometer production technology can be smaller, run faster, consume less power and run cooler than chips produced using larger, 90-nanometer or older technology.
“The widespread demand for our 65-nanometer process illustrates that customers are eager to realize the performance advantages that this advanced process brings to their products,” UMC said in a statement.
A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, and the measurement is a guide to the size of the transistors and other parts that are etched onto the chips. Typically, the more transistors, and the closer they are together, the faster the chip can perform tasks.
UMC said two customers have already started mass production of chip products using its 65-nanometer technology, including Xilinx. The U.S. chip designer sells chips that can be loaded with software to perform a variety of tasks, used mainly in networking gear.
UMC also said it has eight other customers readying products for its factories. It expects to have a total of 11 different chips from 10 customers in production by the end of the third quarter.
Making the components on chips smaller is not easy. Chips themselves come in many different sizes, from the size of a thumbnail to smaller than the head of a nail. Chip maker spend months and hundreds of millions of dollars to perfect 65-nanometer manufacturing technology, and buy new equipment for production lines. In recent years, some companies have grumbled that current technologies are running into barriers, and that new techniques will have to be found to shrink chip feature sizes down much further.
A small but growing number of chip manufacturers are using 65-nanometer production technology, including Texas Instruments, Intel, Toshiba and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.
-Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service (Taipei Bureau)
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