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UMC poised to use X architecture for 90nm chips

Posted: 13 Apr 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:90nm? nontraditional X architecture?

Foundry United Microelectronics Corp. is ready to manufacture 90nm chips using the nontraditional X architecture.

The Taiwanese company was the first foundry to offer X-based design rules for manufacturing in 2003, joining an industry consortium that promotes the architecture as a more sensible way to design and manufacture ICs.

In the X architecture, wiring is allowed to run at 45-degree angles, based on the premise that the quickest route between two points is often a straight line. Compared to traditional Manhattan grid wiring, X-based chips may offer improvements of 20 to 30 percent in speed, density and power usage because of the more direct routing.

The X Initiative, a consortium of more than 40 companies, is calling 2005 the "year of first X products." During the past two years, several companies have developed prototypes, including Toshiba Corp., Infineon Technologies AG, STMicroelectronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Earlier this year, Applied Materials Inc. said it had created a test chip based on the X architecture using 65nm design rules.

Some observers, however, have noted that design firms may not believe the gains made through the architecture outweigh the efforts needed to change design methodologies. To date, Toshiba is the only firm to have brought a system-on-chip to production using the X architecture.

Although UMC is the first foundry to offer the X option, it is still only talking with customers about potential designs. "We hope to see activity soon, as we work closely with X-initiative to encourage our customers to look closely at the benefits of this new architecture," said Alex Hinnawi, a UMC spokesman.

Yet with the number of companies in the consortium working on test chips, it is likely more announcements will be forthcoming this year. "UMC's announcement bodes well for this 'year of first X products'," said Aki Fujimura, a X Initiative steering group member and chief technology officer, New Business Incubation, at Cadence Design Systems Inc.

"The performance and cost benefits of the X architecture, coupled with the advanced 90nm process, are a potent combination for the performance-demanding and cost-conscious fabless market," Fujimura added.

- Mike Clendenin

EE Times

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