Toshiba, Hitachi, Renesas mull joint chip foundry

Three of Japan's largest semiconductor makers are considering jointly constructing an advanced chip manufacturing plant, they said Wednesday.

Three of Japan's largest semiconductor makers are considering jointly constructing an advanced chip manufacturing plant, they said Wednesday.

Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Renesas Technology Corp. will look into jointly creating a semiconductor foundry that will be able to offer advanced manufacturing to all three companies, they said in a brief statement. No further details of the plan were available.

The statement was issued after a local business newspaper reported the three companies reached the agreement on Tuesday. The foundry will begin operations in 2007 and offer advanced 65 nanometer manufacturing to all three companies, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said in its Wednesday morning edition.

A nanometer is a thousandth of a millimeter, and chip production technology is measured by the size of the smallest feature it can support. At present, most advanced chips are made on 90nm production lines, although Intel Corp. has already introduced technology that works down to 65nm.

Japanese semiconductor makers are increasingly looking to work together as chip technology advances and the amount of time and money involved in making the technological leaps to new production technologies increases.

Toshiba is no stranger to such agreements. In 2004 it and Sony Corp. agreed to work together on developing technology that can produce chips whose smallest features are 45 nanometers in size. In November this year it announced a similar agreement with NEC Electronics Corp. At present both represent different projects but the three could join in a single initiative.

One of the companies involved in Wednesday's announcement, Renesas Technology, is itself a partnership between Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. that was formed to be more competitive against foreign chip makers.

First reports of the joint foundry plan emerged in September, when the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said Toshiba and Hitachi were talking with a wide group of potential partners including Renesas, NEC Electronics and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic).

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