an error occurred while processing this directive] Reshaping the rules of integrated-circuit design, Akira Ishikawa presents the spherical chip and promises cheaper, faster processors. [an error occurred while processing this directive] Since chip fabs began churning out integrated circuits 40 years ago, engineers have been steadily shrinking their components, desperately trying to stamp more chips out of each costly silicon wafer. This approach has certainly been successful in the past, but the price tag of state-of-the-art chip fabs is now in the multibillion-dollar range - and getting higher. "We stand at the edge of a cliff," says Akira Ishikawa, founder and CEO of Ball Semiconductor in Allen, Texas. "Spending billions is a huge risk, even for the largest semiconductor manufacturer." Now, contends this former president of Texas Instruments Japan, "it's time for a new way of thinking." Ishikawa wants to replace flat silicon wafers with silicon spheres. His plan is to etch circuits onto spherical wafers, then form larger chips by stacking the tiny, 1-mm balls. Fabrication takes place while the balls are whizzing through narrow tubes, eliminating the need for the huge clean rooms that make new fabs so expensive. And since much less silicon material is required (the entire ball is covered in circuitry, as compared to only the front surface of a wafer), the semiconductors will cost one-tenth of today's flat circuits. "Lithography is more complex when printing features on a spherical surface," says Tia-min Pang, a managing director for Cowen & Company who analyzed the financial and technical merits of Ishikawa's venture. "And stacking balls to make complex circuits will require precision sizing - not an exotic problem, yet still very difficult. But Ball's concept may solve many of the problems facing the semiconductor IC industry." Private investors have seeded Ishikawa with US$52 million, enough to complete
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Semiconductor foundry services suppliers design and manufacture semiconductor chips on a contract basis, in prototype to production quantities.
Ceramic balls are spherical, rolling elements that provide higher stiffness, lower thermal expansion, lighter weight, increased corrosion resistance, and higher electrical resistance than steel balls. They are made from a variety of ceramic materials.
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an error occurred while processing this directive] Reshaping the rules of integrated-circuit design, Akira Ishikawa presents the spherical chip and promises cheaper, faster processors. [an error...
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