Intel said it has reached an important milestone on the path to rolling out the next generation of chip manufacturing in 2007.
The chip giant said on Jan. 25 that it has completed a test chip using its forthcoming 45-nanometer process, dubbed P1266, which it expects to roll out in the second half of 2007.
The test chip, completed earlier this month, uses the same circuitry that Intel will put into production when it begins 45-nanometer manufacturing, scheduled for the second half of 2007, Intel representatives said.
Because the chip—which contains static RAM memory cells and logic circuits—includes the same circuitry Intel will put into production, its arrival signals the chip maker is keeping pace with its own internal targets—Intel historically rolls out a new manufacturing process every two years—as well as Moores Law.
The prediction by Intel founder Gordon Moore, says the number of transistors inside chips double about every two years, thus raising performance.
"Were pretty excited weve made such a large, dense structure with such a tiny SRAM cell and its working early in the program—probably earlier than what weve done on earlier technology," said Mark Bohr, director of process architecture and integration at Intel in Hillsboro, Ore.
"So its a very encouraging start to our 45-nanometer program. It makes me confident that we are on track for second half 07 [processor] shipments."
Intel and other chip makers generally us SRAM chips to test out new manufacturing processes. The company has added logic circuits to its SRAM process technology test chips before. But it did not disclose doing so until now.
Intel typically creates its test chip about year-and-a-half before it aims to begin full manufacturing on a given process.
"So far were on track for doing the same thing on the 45-nanometer node," Bohr said. "This combination is showing not only a fully functional SRAM test chip, but also the logic [inside it] really demonstrates how far ahead we are of our competitors," Bohr said.
"Many of them are still trying to achieve this on their 65-nanometer technology."
Swapping manufacturing processes has become more difficult as the feature sizes inside each chip get smaller with each generation, chip makers said.
However, the move generally yields gains in performance, power consumption and reductions in chip size, meaning chip makers can crank out more processors per wafer than before.
The size reduction also cuts chip manufacturing costs, however, which can offset the billions of dollars it takes to develop new processes and construct or re-outfit manufacturing plants.
The 45-nanometer transition could also offer Intel, which has been battered by rival AMD in recent months, the ability to use its manufacturing might to fight back in the long term.
During the fourth quarter, for example, AMD increased its market share by almost four points, while Intel admitted to losing share.