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Samsung, Intel, TSMC to Work on New Chip Format

Reuters
Monday, 5 May 2008 | 9:38 PM ET

Samsung Electronics, the world's top maker of memory chips, on Tuesday said it would cooperate with top rivals Intel and TSMC to develop bigger silicon wafers to boost efficiency in chip manufacturing.

Intel Core 2 Duo Processor
AP
Intel Core 2 Duo Processor

Samsung said in a filing that it would work with U.S.-based Intel, the world's top maker of semiconductors, and Taiwan's TSMC, the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, to help migration of manufacturing standards from the current 12-inch (300 mm) silicon wafers to 18-inch (450 mm) discs that would yield more than double the number of chips.

The South Korean company said the cooperation plan called for a first pilot line to be operable by 2012.

The group is planning to cooperate with the whole semiconductor industry in order to establish common standards through the International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) consortium.

The world's largest chip makers have been exploring the move to pizza-sized silicon wafers to help them grab market share as demand surges for gadgets such as Apple's iPod.

Intel and TSMC have advocated the need to shift to 18-inch wafers by around 2012.

The industry -- from semiconductor makers to the companies that make their equipment -- needs to agree on how to proceed.

Cost is a major hurdle. A factory designed to make chips on 18-inch wafers could cost $10 billion or more to build, nearly triple the price of a current 12-inch wafer factory, analysts say.

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