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Applied expands in Silicon Valley

Chip equipment maker Applied Materials opens a second development center in California's high-tech region to focus on faster, more powerful processors.

Chip equipment maker Applied Materials has opened a second development center in California's Silicon Valley to help its customers make faster, more powerful nanoscale processors.

The company said Thursday that the Process Module Technology Center is the most advanced facility yet for semiconductor development, allowing its customers to make copper-based chips that are smaller than 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about a hundred-thousandth of the diameter of a human hair.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., facility, which started operations on Thursday, will also make use of a new business model for chip development. Applied said it would integrate multiple systems in the development process so they function as single units. The move, necessitated by the complexity of chips that are 100 nanometers and smaller, should also reduce costs for customers, Applied said.

The 166,000-square-foot center is Applied's second in Silicon Valley, and the company said the new site will offer more advanced measuring and testing capabilities than its Equipment Process Integration Center, which has been in operation since 1998. Applied said together, both sites will help "customers as they make the critical transitions to the nanochip era and beyond."

Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and Motorola are among Applied's top customers. These chipmakers, along with other companies involved in chip design, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, have been racing to minimize chip size and increase power by using nanotechnology, the science of building objects on a scale smaller than 100 nanometers.