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Rail-to-rail output and, really, rail-to-rail input are needed when working with 3.3-V supplies,” said Bill Gross, general manager of Linear Technology Corp.'s signal-conditioning business (Milpitas, Calif.). The driving force is baseband signal processing in cell phone basestations. Signals out of a demodulator have to be filtered and presented to A/D converters, and the A/Ds are down to 3 V and the signals are 1.25 V or 2.5 V peak to peak. They need an amplifier to run on the same supplies.”

TMM-141-01-F-D-RA-017_Datasheet PDF

Rail-to-rail output and, really, rail-to-rail input are needed when working with 3.3-V supplies,” said Bill Gross, general manager of Linear Technology Corp.'s signal-conditioning business (Milpitas, Calif.). The driving force is baseband signal processing in cell phone basestations. Signals out of a demodulator have to be filtered and presented to A/D converters, and the A/Ds are down to 3 V and the signals are 1.25 V or 2.5 V peak to peak. They need an amplifier to run on the same supplies.”

Latest to complain is Cisco Systems. A new class of communication chips for the next-generation of routers is pushing the limits for today's IC testers, warns the networking equipment giant, and new advanced chip testing technologies are needed.

Cisco is worried because it develops and uses cutting-edge network processors, switch fabric chips, and application-specific integrated circuits in its routers. Its high-end route for building Internet Protocol backbones, for example, runs at speeds over 10 gigabits per second.

TMM-141-01-F-D-RA-017_Datasheet PDF

Routers are pushing technology to the limits,” says Cisco engineer Matthias Kamm. Routers are getting bigger and becoming more powerful, but power and heat are becoming real problems in systems design.” He says the test challenges for devices in routers have gone up dramatically.”

As always, the cost of IC testing is a major issue, and this problem has prompted Cisco to use everything from build-in self-test (BIST) to boundary scan. Intel is taking a whack at the problem by pushing a technology called distributed test.” Cisco doesn't test its chips in-house, but uses a test subcontractor, Digital Testing Services.

(See April 3 story.)

TMM-141-01-F-D-RA-017_Datasheet PDF

In a major R&D effort, IBM, Toshiba, Sony, and Sony Computer Entertainment have expanded existing ties to co-develop advanced process technologies for 0.09- to 0.045-micron chip designs on 300-mm wafer substrates.

TMM-141-01-F-D-RA-017_Datasheet PDF

Their goal is to move silicon-on-insulator and other advanced semiconductor process technologies into cost-sensitive chips for consumer electronics gear. The companies expect to spend several hundred million dollars” over the next four years to develop 90-nm (0.09-micron), 65-nm (0.065-micron), and 45-nm (0.045-micron) chips using SOI wafers, copper-metal interconnects, and low-k dielectrics.

As part of the deal, IBM will transfer its SOI technology to Japan's Sony and Toshiba and may become a foundry for the alliance. Toshiba will provide its system-on-a-chip (SoC) and manufacturing expertise and Sony will leverage the processes for its consumer devices.

Some companies today use all kinds of tricks to keep power density within reason. Perhaps they say the mobile processor is a 1-GHz processor, but then they reduce the frequency during certain operations, turn off half the circuits, and so on. That doesn't work when you are running a speech recognition interface on a battery-operated device that is meant to be turned on for weeks at a time,” Davari said.

IBM has built a 300-mm wafer fab at East Fishkill that moves into manufacturing this quarter, starting out at 130-nm design rules. By late this year, a 300-mm, self-contained development fab will be opened. That development fab, called Advanced Semiconductor Technology Center 2, will bring up the 90-nm and beyond technologies co-developed by the four partners.

Reduce risk

Hutcheson at VLSI Research said the partnership is part of a major trend to share burgeoning process development costs, thus reducing manufacturing risks.

Everyone is spending a huge amount of money on research, and bringing up these new technologies in manufacturing is getting to be very difficult. Look at copper, which IBM announced in 1997. Copper is still pretty rare, when you look at the total industry, and almost everyone has had big problems with the low-k materials, so companies have backed off of that to use FSG [fluorinated silicate glass]. Even IBM has had challenges bringing up SiLK [a low-k dielectric],” Hutcheson said.

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