CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Tech Industry

Chipmaker grabs $52 million in funds

Matrix Semiconductor, which specializes in uniquely designed, "3D" data-storage chips, secures more in funding, although the company's first products have been delayed.

Matrix Semiconductor, which specializes in uniquely designed, "3D" data-storage chips, has secured $52 million more in funding, although the company's first products have been delayed.

The latest round of investment brings the total invested into the Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up to $147 million. Earlier this year, Japanese game manufacturer Nintendo invested $15 million in the company.

The funding, however, comes amid a fairly lengthy product delay. The company's first chips were supposed to already be on the market. Technical difficulties, though, have pushed the release to the second half of this year.

Matrix has designed a memory chip that essentially goes up rather than out. The chips are made of alternating layers of polysilicon and silicon oxide, similar to the structure of LCD panels. By stacking circuitry vertically, Matrix can shrink the surface area of a chip and thus squeeze far more chips out of a single wafer, cutting costs dramatically.

"We get this nice cake of polysilicon and oxide," said Tom Lee, one of the company's founders and a professor at Stanford University.

Several companies and university researchers experimented with such 3D processors in the '80s, but until recently the concept has remained a lab novelty.

Invite Michael Kanellos into your in-box
Get senior department editor Michael Kanellos delivered right to your in-box with a full column and commentary on chips, servers and all the hardware critical to your business. Enterprise Hardware, every Wednesday.

Matrix's chips are nonvolatile, which means they retain data when the host computer is turned off. Unlike flash memory though, the data can't be erased once recorded onto Matrix's chips. The company is trying to sell the technology to consumer companies as a form of film for digital cameras or as a type of media in MP3 players.

Developing the chips for the mass market, though, has come with unexpected difficulties. Thomson Multimedia had planned to start selling add-on cards with Matrix's chips in the second half of 2002. Unspecified technical issues, however, prevented Matrix from coming out with those chips on time.

"Going to 3D is pretty tough," Lee said.

The first chips that appear will also perform a different function. The chips arriving in the second half will come with prerecorded songs and other data. The chips in the Thompson cards were to be blank, allowing users to fill them with photos or other materials. The shift from selling chips with prerecorded media comes as a result of customer demand. Blank chips will make it to the market later, Lee said.

New investors include TeleSoft Partners, Benchmark Capital Europe, Integral Capital Partners, and Seagate Technology.