TAIPEI, Taiwan--IBM Corp., Infineon Technologies AG, and silicon foundry supplier United Microelectronics Corp. today announced plans to jointly develop common process technologies for 0.13- to 0.10-micron logic ICs that can integrate mixed-signal circuitry and embedded DRAM on a single chip. The advanced process generations will include copper interconnect technology.
A team of scientists and engineers from all three companies will conduct the development work at IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center (SRDC) in the U.S. Details about the first 0.13-micron technology will be made available to customers for the start of chip designs in the second quarter of 2000, said the three companies.
The agreement extends through 2003 and brings Taiwan's UMC into an expanded partnership between IBM and Infineon, which have been collaborating in process development since the early 1990s. In 1998, IBM and Infineon--which was then the semiconductor division of Siemens AG--extended their DRAM partnership to include logic and embedded DRAM technologies.
"Teaming up with one of the leading foundry providers, UMC, will add even more momentum to this alliance creating what we expect to be a truly exciting logic and embedded memory technology platform for system integration on chip," declared Andreas von Zitzewitz, chief operating officer of Infineon, based in Munich.
UMC, based in Hsinchu, will market the joint-developed technologies to silicon foundry customers under the brand name "Worldlogic." For UMC--the world's second largest pure-play silicon foundry supplier--the new alliance is expected to become a powerful weapon in its competition with its largest rival, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), also based in Hsinchu. Both companies are racing each other to add capacity and next-generation process technologies as the foundry business surges in size over the next couple of years.
"With the combined expertise of IBM, Infineon and UMC, we believe that the processes that we jointly develop will represent a new world standard for quality in logic semiconductor manufacturing," said Jim Kupec, president of worldwide marketing and sales for UMC.
TSMC's chairman, Morris Chang, today responded to the alliance, saying that his foundry company was first approached by IBM to join the project but it was rejected. Chang questioned whether the joint-development agreement will result in any significant lead in process technologies, compared to TSMC's own targets (see today's story).
Under the alliance agreement, joint-development teams will create each process generation and then turn it over to the individual companies for implementation in wafer fabs. The partnership is expected to benefit from IBM's extensive work in copper and other advanced technologies.
"Our efforts in developing leadership chip technologies are widely recognized--this agreement is intended to make them more widely available," said John Kelly, general manager of the IBM Microelectronics Division. "As IBM, Infineon and UMC jointly develop and introduce new manufacturing processes, we believe more customers will apply the technology in their products, secure in the knowledge that they have multiple sources of supply."
Infineon also believes the partnership will a help ease barriers for use of next-generation technologies in system-on-chip designs. "We believe that by combining our companies' complementary distinct top core competencies, we will be able to master the challenges of the deepest sub-micron technologies even faster with reduced risk at a reasonable cost per partner," said von Zitzewitz. "Our goal is to consistently provide leading-edge logic and eDRAM technology platforms to our customers."
--J. Robert Lineback reporting from the U.S.