IBM offers 45-nanometer chipmaking services

At 45 nanometers, the silicon-on-insulator foundry services promise chip designs that are faster or use less power, but the technology isn't cheap.

IBM is now offering 45-nanometer chipmaking "foundry" services based on its silicon-on-insulator technology.

Foundries have become a big business in the chip industry. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the largest foundry in the world, builds chips for Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia. AMD announced in October that it was spinning off its manufacturing operations into a foundry.

Most of the advanced manufacturing technology offered to date at foundries has been based on a 65-nanometer process. Typically, the smaller the chip geometries, the faster or more power-efficient the chips are.


On Monday, IBM said that 45-nanometer (nm) silicon-on-insulator (SOI) foundry services are available immediately. The company currently makes chips for Sony and Nintendo, among others.

SOI at 45nm offers up to a 30 percent performance improvement or a 40 percent power reduction when compared to more conventional silicon technology, referred to as bulk complementary metal-oxide (CMOS) technology.

The downside is that SOI is more expensive than bulk silicon, a hurdle to adoption by a wider range of customers. Intel does not use SOI technology for its silicon.

IBM said it was the first company to begin commercially shipping SOI technology in its server products during the 1990s, adding that its SOI technology is now used by all the major gaming hardware providers.

The service announced Monday adds industry-standard design tools and libraries to the intellectual property already available through IBM's existing SOI development infrastructure, the company said.

ARM said Monday that it was announcing support for IBM's new 45nm SOI foundry with a SOI physical intellectual property library including standard cell, memory, and I/O libraries.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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