Intel completes design of Penryn chip

The company is in the midst of making the first samples of the 45-nanometer chip, expected to come out toward the end of next year.

Intel has taped out--or completed the design of--Penryn, a 45-nanometer chip that will be out toward the end of next year.

The company is also in the midst of making its first Penryn samples.

"They aren't out of the fab yet, but they are in the fab," said Mark Bohr, director of process technology at Intel, referring to chip factories, known as "fabs."

Intel showed off a memory chip made on the 45-nanometer process .

The Penryn news underscores Intel's expertise in manufacturing. The company has introduced new manufacturing processes every two years. Meanwhile, competitors such as Advanced Micro Devices have had to space out these jumps. Intel started shipping chips made on the 65-nanometer process in October 2005. AMD won't ship its first 65-nano chips until next month.

AMD, however, has claimed it will introduce 45-nanometer chips 18 months after its first 65-nanometer chips, a rapid jump that has raised eyebrows. Most companies don't even make the leap every two years. If AMD can accomplish the task, it can shave six months or so off of Intel's lead in manufacturing.

Chips made on the more advanced process are generally faster and cheaper to make. The nanometer measurements refer to the length of structures inside the chip. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter and is derived from the Ancient Greek word for dwarf.

Manufacturing isn't everything--chipmakers still have to improve their designs. But good manufacturing can help a company gain market share or stem market share losses. Intel executives like company pioneer Les Vadasz and outside analysts have said that manufacturing has played a larger role in the company's success than anticipated in the past.

Bohr was relatively mum about what changes to Intel's chips will come with 45-nanometer manufacturing. The company has said in the past that it may change the materials in the transistor gate and the gate oxide--a major undertaking--to stem power leakage.

Bohr, however, did say that 45-nanometer chips will not come with tri-gate transistors. These transistors have more than one gate, which allows more electrons to flow at once and increases performance.

The chip's namesake is a town near Sacramento, Calif., with a restaurant called the Milk Farm that is familiar to highway drivers .

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