IBM, Sony and Toshiba Thursday said they will extend their joint work on the development of manufacturing technologies for advanced semiconductors. The work will also cover fundamental research related to new chips, including materials research.
The three companies will invest an unspecified amount of money in developing technology to enable them to manufacture chips at least two generations more advanced than those available today, they said in a statement.
Chip manufacturing technology is typically measured by the size of the smallest feature that can be created on the chip's surface. At present most advanced chips are made on production lines that can fabricate features down to 90 nanometers and some companies, like Intel, have recently started 65-nanometer production lines. A nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter and these technology jumps are important because each enables chips to be made smaller, more powerful and more energy efficient.
The three companies have also been working for several years on chip technology at levels down to 45 nanometers and the new deal will see the three work towards 32-nanometer level technology.
"Each company can utilize the research results," said Yasuda. "Toshiba may utilize it for system LSI (large scale integrated circuit) and also memory."
The three companies and Sony Computer Entertainment, the Sony subsidiary responsible for the PlayStation games console, have also been working together on developing an advanced processor for use in the upcoming PlayStation 3 and other consumer electronics products. The Cell processor is scheduled to go into production this year.
The development work under the new deal will take place at three locations in New York state: IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, the Center for Semiconductor Research at Albany Nanotech, and at IBM's chip factory in East Fishkill.
Japanese semiconductor makers are increasingly looking to work together as chip technology advances and the amount of time and money involved in making the technological leaps in new manufacturing processes increases. By working together the companies hope Japan's chip industry can stay competitive against foreign companies, particularly those from South Korea, Taiwan and the U.S.
At the end of last year Toshiba said it and two other domestic chip makers, Hitachi and Renesas Technology, are considering creating a semiconductor foundry that will be able to offer advanced manufacturing for all three companies.
Toshiba last year announced two bilateral deals, one with Sony and one with NEC Electronics, to work on chips whose smallest features measure 45-nanometers.