Toshiba ASICs could be first to 90 nanometer

Toshiba America Electronic Components (TAEC) has announced the design availability of chips built on a 90-nanometer process, with high-volume production expected by the third quarter, it said in a release Monday.

A consumer electronics customer has already placed a design order, according to a Toshiba spokeswoman.

TAEC's TC300 ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) chips could be the first chips to appear based on a 90nm process. Intel's first 90nm product is expected to be the successor to the Pentium 4, code-named Prescott, which is due out in the second half of the year.

ASICs are made for a specific purpose, and are generally designed by the manufacturer of the product in which they will be used. Other processors, such as Intel's Pentium 4 or Advanced Micro Devices's Athlon XP, are referred to as general integrated circuits.

Most current processors were built on a 130nm (0.13-micron) process. As process technologies shrink, more transistors can be placed on the same die size, leading to higher performance. The size of the process refers to the width of the smallest wire on the chip. One nanometer is equal to one-billionth of a meter.

TAEC's 90nm process resulted in a chip that uses 50 percent less power than its 0.13-micron ASIC chip, it said. The TC300 will be used in high-speed networking applications, digital multimedia devices, and portable wireless devices, the company said.

Orders are limited to TAEC's large customers right now, but the company will begin to ramp up to mass production in the second quarter, the San Jose, California, company said. TAEC is a division of Toshiba Corp., based in Tokyo.

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