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VLSI LAYS OUT ROADMAP FOR VERY SMALL TRANSISTOR-BASED CHIPS

Semiconductor manufacturer VLSI Technology Inc yesterday laid out its roadmap for the next few years with two processes being developed for communications, consumer digital entertainment and high-performance computing markets. The VSC9 2.5 volt process will produce chips for communications appliances and mixed analog/digital signal architectures, while the VSC10 1.8 volt will deliver chips for high-gate count computing applications at lower power consumption levels than the other process. VLSI says these processes should be in production by the fourth quarter and the first quarter of next year respectively. They use technology VLSI licensed last year from Hitachi Ltd. The company’s San Antonio, Texas facility is being upgraded for the processes. This move is part of San Jose, California-based VLSI’s move to the high-end, following the closure of its home-town fab last November with the loss of 300 jobs, so it, the world’s fourth largest semiconductor company could concentrate on the market for chips that use very small transistors, with more than ever crammed onto a single chip (CI No 3,048). VLSI says it will be using transistors between 0.20 and 0.25 micron wide, as opposed to the more common 0.35 and 0.5 micron processes – San Antonio had previously been a 0.35 micron fab – and therefore will be able to get up to 72 million transistors on a chip, about three times as many as it current, two year-old process. And the more transistors, the more horsepower and less power consumption, the theory goes. VLSI reckons that when things get that small, the connections between transistors become more important than ever, and to this end it will release new so-called High Density Initiative circuit libraries so developers can get going with new designs – that would be specific to these processes – as the fabs go into production. VLSI counts Silicon Graphics Inc, L M Ericsson Telefon AB and Sony Corp among its leading customers for these sorts of chips.

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CBR Staff Writer

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