TI gives shot in the arm to Sun's UltraSparc

Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) has begun using an advanced manufacturing process for larger wafers that will soon be used to make Sun Microsystems Inc.'s UltraSparc processors. The process is expected to increase the power of chips made while simultaneously driving down the cost of production.

The Dallas company has begun manufacturing 300-millimeter silicon wafers, the sheets of silicon from which computer chips are cut, in its DMOS 6 facility, a move up from 200-millimeter wafers, TI said in a statement on Wednesday.

By increasing the size of the wafer and using a 130 nanometers (0.13 microns) copper process technology, the 300-millimeter wafer can produce 2.4 times as many processors as a 200-millimeter wafer, TI said. As a result, the per-chip production cost decreases by 30 percent to 40 percent, TI said.

The processors can also be used to build products that, while smaller, have a higher performance rate using less power, TI said.

The new process, when applied to the production of Sun's UltraSparc processors, will allow Sun to buy the processors more cheaply from TI while also building faster products such as servers.

Sun, which currently sells 900MHz UltraSPARC IIIs across much of its server line, in June announced its plans to begin phasing in its next-generation UltraSPARC IV processors. According to Sun's road map, the UltraSPARC IV will be built with the copper interconnect technology and a 0.13-micron manufacturing process used by TI. The UltraSPARC IV chips will hit the market between the first and second quarter of 2003 with speeds of 1.2GHz, which will be increased to 2GHz in late 2004, Sun said.

TI's DMOS 6 facility, located in north Dallas, is expected to produce 10,000 wafers a month by the end of this year and has the ability to 35,000 wafers a month when running at full capacity, TI said.

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