An industry consortium and three US national laboratories demonstrated a prototype of a chip-making machine that it said by 2006 could make chips smaller and nearly 10 times faster than today.
Using so-called extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to trace ultra small lines of circuitry on silicon wafers, the technology could let companies print circuits down to 0.03 microns.
The consortium of semiconductor companies includes Intel, Motorola, AMD, Micron Technology, Infineon Technologies and IBM. The three labs are Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
Chuck Gwyn, programme manager for the collaboration, called the EUV Limited Liability Company (LLC), said the completion of the prototype machine marks a major milestone. "Our next step is to transfer the technology to lithography equipment manufacturers to develop beta and production tools," he said.
Processors using EUV technology are expected to reach speeds of up to 10Ghz by 2006.
The machine, known as the Engineering Test Stand, will be used by LLC partners and lithography tool suppliers during the next year to refine the technology and get it ready to create prototype commercial machines that meet industry requirements for high-volume chip production. The prototype should start at 0.07-micron circuitry.
Kevin Krewell, an analyst at MicroDesign Resources, said that it looks like the right technology. "You've got all the major players supporting it. It looks real solid," he said.
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