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TI exits 45nm process race

Posted: 26 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Texas Instruments? logic process? foundry? CMOS? fab?

Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) has decided to drop the costly business of digital logic process development and rely on foundry partners for its processes.

According to reports, TI development has decided to stop internal development at the 45nm node and use foundry supplied processes at 32nm, 22nm and thereafter.

This would allow the company to save a great deal of money in both process development and fab building and allow it to focus on adding value in design. The extension of the strategy would see the company going fabless, at least in the digital arena. However, it also removes one of the company's advantages over fabless competitors such as Qualcomm Inc.

TI made the announcement that it would exit digital CMOS process development as part of its Q4 and full year financial results, although the news was mixed in with the announcement that the company would close its Kilby wafer fab in Dallas and move the manufacturing equipment into several of its existing analog fabs with a loss of about 500 jobs by the end of the year.

However, the decision to stop developing digital chipmaking processesby a company credited with the co-invention of the integrated circuitis likely to be more significant in the long term. Many more fabs look set to close over time.

"Entering 2007, we challenge ourselves to keep improving performance. One way we'll do this is by changing the way we develop advanced digital process technology. Instead of separately creating our own core technology, we will work collaboratively with our foundry partners to specify and drive the next generations of digital process technology, and we will continue making products on these technologies in our world-class factories," said Rich Templeton, TI president and CEO, in a statement.

The company has long used foundries, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., United Microelectronics Corp. and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., as buffer suppliers whose proportion of TI output can ebb and flow with economic cycles.

However, despite the fact that Templeton spoke of bringing foundry processes into TI wafer fabs, that would seem set to be a transitionary measure. It seems unlikely that TI would ever construct a leading-edge wafer fab again and is set to let its own manufacturing of advanced digital CMOS wither on the vine.

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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