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TI tips IC-production efforts

Posted: 23 Feb 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Texas Instruments? fab? processor? foundry? TSMC?

Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) elaborated on its IC-manufacturing strategy, saying that it will shortly announce a new strategic deal with a silicon foundry provider. TI did not identify the provider, but some sources speculated that the chip maker could form a closer partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (TSMC).

As reported in January, TI said that it will continue to make chips within its own logic and analog fabs. But the company has decided to drop the costly business of digital logic process development and rely on foundry partners for its processes.

TI said it will complete the development of its own 45nm logic process but has then 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 avoid duplication and reduce its research and development costs, said Hans Stork, senior vice president and chief technology officer at TI, in a recent interview here.

Stork also elaborated on the company's new chip-manufacturing strategy, which has created some confusion after last month's big announcement. At present, TI has three digital logic flowslow power (wireless/ mobile), high performance DSP/ASIC and computing/microprocessor.

For the high-performance computing/microprocessor arena, TI manufactures Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Sparc-based processors on a foundry basis for the workstation company. For this segment, TI develops a high-end process technology and also makes the processors within its own fabs. In addition, Fujitsu Ltd. also makes Sparc chips on a foundry basis for Sun.

Meanwhile, in wireless, DSP and other standard products, TI develops a process and aligns the technology with various foundry providers, mainly Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Pte Ltd, United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and TSMC. UMC served as the "lead foundry" for TI, it was noted.

On the other hand, a TI spokesman said "TI will keep all analog process technology in-house." The company will not change its analog strategy. But going forward, "We will be working very closely with foundries to jointly define low-power [processes] and work with multiple foundries," according to the spokesman. "We'll probably work with only one [partner] on microprocessor class/Sun and that is the closest to a 'joint development' model. The high performace DSP /ASIC will come directly from the foundry with minimum involvement by TI."

Stork said it is likely that TI will keep its current foundry partners in the low-power and DSP/ASIC areas. TI works with Chartered, UMC and TSMC.

Also over time, TI will work with perhaps one foundry on the joint development of a process technology for Sparc-based processors. That foundry may also end up making the chips. TI may or may not end up producing those products as well.

"They will be probably built in Taiwan," Stork said, without elaborating. Some sources speculate that Sun's Sparc chips will be built on a foundry basis by TSMC. Others speculated that Fujitsu may be a possible contender.

Stork "might have said 'probably in Taiwan,' but I'm sure we did not commit to Taiwan as the location where Sparc products would be put into foundry," according to the spokesman for TI.

"Think it's also too early to say we will no longer make Sparc-based chips in our own fabs. If they prove capable, that is certainly a possibility, but I would rather not speculate until it is proven true that we won't make Sparcs anymore," according to the spokesman.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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