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UMC scores Sparc deal in new TI fab scheme

Posted: 10 May 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sparc processors? TI fab scheme? foundry business?

Texas Instruments Inc. on Monday disclosed its new foundry strategy, indicating that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd (TSMC), United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and a yet-to-be-determined vendor will split its 45nm business.

As part of the disclosure, UMC appears to have scored a major victory, as the company will make Sparc processors on a foundry basis at the 45nm node for Sun Microsystems Inc., according to an executive from TI. Previously, TI had been exclusively making Sparc chips on a foundry basis for Sun.

UMC's rival, TSMC, also won some significant 45nm DSP foundry business at TI. It's unclear if TI's other foundry partnerChartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Pte Ltdwon any 45nm business.

Going 'fab-lite'
Overall, TI makes chips within its own logic fabs, but the company also outsources half of its production to third-party foundry providers in an effort to reduce its production costs, said Kevin Ritchie, senior VP of TI's Technology and Manufacturing Group, in an interview.

Basically, there are three facets to TI's complex foundry strategy: wireless, DSP and Sparc processors. First, at the current 65nm node, TI has three foundry partners for its wireless chips: Chartered, TSMC and UMC.

Second, within its own logic fabs, TI develops processes and makes its own 65nm high-performance DSPs. And finally, TI also makes Sparc microprocessors on a foundry basis for Sun Microsystems.

Going forward, TI will continue to make chips within its own logic fabs at the 45nm node. It will also continue to utilize foundries.

Strategy shift
But in a switch in its strategy at 45nm, UMC will also make Sparc processors on a foundry basis for Sun, according to Ritchie. ''For the first iteration, it will be UMC,'' he said. Sun has not disclosed its manufacturing plans, however.

For the high-performance DSP business at 45nm, TI will develop this process with TSMC, he said. TI, along with TSMC, are expected to manufacture these products.

For wireless chips at 45nm, TI will continue to use UMC and TSMC, he said. TI plans to name a third foundry partner for wireless devices at 45nm, but that partner has yet to be determined. Much of that decision depends on a partner with aggressive or ''disruptive pricing,'' he said.

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

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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