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Via joins switch to scaled-down manufacturing process

Via Technologies is the latest chipmaker to embrace a manufacturing process that promises cheaper, faster processors.

Via Technologies is the latest chipmaker to embrace a manufacturing process that promises cheaper, faster processors.

The Taiwan-based processor and chipset manufacturer announced plans Tuesday to base a future generation of Cyrix processors, expected next year, on a new 0.13-micron process from manufacturing partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

The measurement refers to the size of the circuitry on the chip. Most current chips are built on 0.18-micron processes. Shrinking circuitry means more elements can fit on a piece of silicon, allowing faster, less power-hungry chips and reducing manufacturing costs.

The new manufacturing process will be an important piece of the puzzle for Via as the company moves its low-cost Cyrix processor forward. The process, dubbed CL013LV, will allow Via Cyrix chips to hit higher clock speeds and at the same time reduce their power consumption.

"TSMC has clearly demonstrated that it is ahead of the curve with its state-of-the-art process technology," Via CEO Wenchi Chen said in a statement. "Through our close partnership with them, Via will be the first company in the world to launch a CPU using an advanced 0.13-micron process onto the market."

Via's first 0.13-micron chips are expected to be based on a future processor core called C5C, which is due next year, the company said recently. The planned C5C clock speeds will range from 733 MHz to about 867 MHz.

The C5C core will begin sampling in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of next year. Via expects to begin volume production next summer, said Paul Ayscough, vice president of marketing for Via's S3 unit.

TSMC announced Tuesday that it delivered silicon wafers based on CL013LV to Via, a major milestone in the development of the process.

Via in turn said it had verified the functionality of the wafers. In the manufacturing process, wafers are printed with circuits and then divided to create individual chips.

The CL013LV process, according to TSMC, is about 72 percent smaller than its current 0.18-micron manufacturing process.

Via joins Intel and Advanced Micro Devices in the 0.13-micron migration. Both Intel and AMD recently announced plans to convert to the new process.

Intel, which recently produced sample Pentium III chips based on its 0.13-micron process, dubbed P860, aims to make the conversion by mid-2001.

AMD executives said recently that the company is installing 0.13-micron technology at its plant in Dresden, Germany. It plans to ship a variety of 0.13-micron Athlon and Duron chips starting in the first quarter of 2002.