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Intel invests in chip equipment maker

The chip giant sinks $15 million in a leading chip equipment maker as it eyes future generations of super-fast processors.

Intel has invested $15 million in a leading chip equipment maker as it eyes future generations of super-fast processors.

Intel and Silicon Valley Group (SVG) announced today that Intel has made a $15 million equity investment in the supplier of equipment for processing wafers. The wafer is a basic building block of a microprocessor: The circuit components of a chip are etched on the wafer.

In addition to the capital investment, the two companies will collaborate on the development of next-generation chip making technology used for manufacturing future Intel microprocessors.

Intel will purchase nonvoting preferred stock, convertible into SVG common stock. When converted into common shares and including Intel's current holdings, it will own 4.7 percent of SVG's outstanding stock, the company said.

The joint development will be based on SVG's future photolithography technology--the process by which microprocessor circuits are imprinted on silicon wafers.

"While still in early development, advanced lithography tools using SVG's [technology] is expected to allow Intel to extend its use of optical lithography through future generations of microprocessors," the companies said in a statement.

Early lithography tools are expected to be available in 2002 and are being designed to extend the ability to print circuits for line widths of 0.10 micron and below, the companies said. Today, chips--such as Intel's fastest chips for portable PCs--are typically made on production processes that yield line widths of about 0.25 micron. Generally, the thinner the line width the more advanced the manufacturing process and the faster the chip.

Intel is expected to be making chips running well over 1 GHz (1000 megahertz) by that time. These chips will also have copious amounts of high-speed cache memory integrated into the chip to increase performance.

"Advanced photolithography solutions are a critical element in our effort to develop each new generation of Intel microprocessors with smaller features and higher performance," said Mike Splinter, Intel Senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group in a statement. "We want to work with SVG to bring these tools to the market as quickly as possible to meet our microprocessor roadmap"