Chiplets: The future of circuitry?

Xerox technology would allow companies to "print" circuitry for electronics, rather than use today's wafers.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
The future might be sitting in Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center.
The future might be sitting in Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. Intel

Xerox has a different view on the future than most.

The company recently gave The New York Times the opportunity to see a new technology it's working on at its Palo Alto, Calif., research center. Referred to as Xerographic microassembly, the technology is based on the idea of laser printing and could one day become the most efficient way to bring circuitry to electronics products, Xerox claims.

According to the Times, Xerographic microassembly breaks traditional silicon wafers into thousands of "chiplets" and then bottles them up as a physical "ink." Once that ink is produced and ready, Xerox applies the same technology it uses to put laser printer toner onto paper to "print" a device's circuitry. The technology uses electrical fields derived from electrodes to ensure the circuits all land in the correct position, according to the Times.

The so-called "chiplets" can be everything from microprocessors to computer memory to other lesser-known components in the average computer.

If the idea is making you scratch your head a bit, don't be surprised. It's at the very least a dramatically different way of producing circuitry for electronics. To deliver circuitry to today's devices, companies build huge wafers with dies that contain electronic circuitry. They are then cut apart and placed on circuit boards along with many others. The Xerox technology would provide an all-in-one solution that would make it easier, and perhaps more cost-efficient, to get the circuitry to a device.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, Xerox admitted to the Times that the technology is still in its early stages of testing, and it won't make a play for the chip market anytime soon. Still, it's nice to get at least a small glimpse into the future.