NEC, Sony and Toshiba team to develop 45 nm process

Tokyo (Japan) - NEC, Sony and Toshiba agreed to collaborate on the development of a 45 nm process technology for semiconductors. The companies hope that the miniaturization will result in higher performance and functionality as well as lower power consumption of integrated circuits.

Sony and Toshiba originally announced their joint development of a 45 nm LSI (Large Scale Integration) process back in February of 2004 and since then have worked on the project at Toshiba's Advanced Microelectronics Center in Yokohama, Japan. So far, the results have not shown up in actual products, but have been discussed at industry conferences.

The two firms now agreed to include NEC's 45 nm team in their development work in Yokohama and hope that the additional knowledge will "accelerate" the development of the production technology.

While it was not stated when the team expects their 45 nm process to be ready for mass-producing semiconductors, it is generally expected that Intel - who was first to demonstrate a 45 nm SRAM chip just recently - is likely to keep its lead in developing the scaling process and is on schedule to introduce 45 nm processors by the end of 2007.

Scaling of processors beyond 65 nm structures consumes enormous research efforts and resources, which may result in several more industry alliances to combine manpower as well as finances for research and production in the future. With semiconductor factories already costing substantially more than $2.5 billion, only the largest semiconductor companies may be able to make the production economics work.

One of the first joint-production announcements in this trend was made by Hitachi, Toshiba and Renesas, which agreed to develop a 65 and 45 nm production facility that is expected to cost about $2.67 billion. Intel reportedly is already working on preparing a mass production process for its 45 nm chips in its D1D fab in Hillsboro, Oregon. The company also confirmed that it is already developing a 32 nm process in Oregon.