Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing's new 40nm process gives the American fabs a run for their money

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) announced earlier this week that it will start offering a new 40nm microchip to its customers. The company originally planned to adopt the 45nm process node -- well established by AMD, IBM and Intel -- though the company simultaneously confirmed it will abandon its efforts for 45nm general purpose process node technology.

Just a step smaller the current 45nm CPU processes at 45nm, the company is focusing on a low-power node for wireless and portable appliances with the 40LP line.  The 40G line will be use in game consoles, graphics processors and other high-performance devices.

"Our design flow can take designs at 45nm and target it toward the advantages of 40nm. A lot of TSMC development work has gone into ensuring that this transition is truly transparent. Designers need only concentrate on achieving their performance objectives," said senior director of advanced technology marketing at TSMC, Jon Wai, in a statement earlier this week.

The new chips boast the smallest SRAM size in the industry at 0.242 micrometers. They have a smaller footprint than current 45nm chips and 2.35 times higher gate density than TSMC's previous 65nm process. Extreme low-k material is combined with a 193nm immersion lithography process to create the new wafers.

Some of TSMC's more notable clients include AMD, Broadcom, Conexant, NVIDIA and VIA as well as most recently Sun Microsystems who chose TSMC as the new manufacturer for their famous UltraSparc processors.

TSMC has not confirmed which clients opted for the new process designs, though ATI traditionally trailblazed new process nodes for the company. After AMD purchased ATI, the AMD RV670 chipset became one of the first to adopt the 55nm process nodes at TSMC, so it may be entirely realistic to expect AMD to embrace the 40G node later this year or early next year.

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