Within the next five years IBM will build all of its microprocessors using its new manufacturing process that depends on copper instead of aluminum to build transistors, according to Michael Attardo, general manger of IBM's microelectronics division.
Attardo was speaking in Paris at the opening of a new production line for 64Mbit DRAM chips.
IBM's manufacturing technology, called CMOS 7S (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor). CMOS 7S lets IBM draw on copper's ability to conduct electricity better than aluminum - the metal normally used in chip construction - while insulating copper to prevent its tendency to fuse with silicon. All this means that IBM can make smaller, faster chips and, according to Attardo, eventually cut the cost of chip manufacturing by 15 to 20 percent.
The company plans to phase out aluminum and use copper in all of its chips by 2002 or 2003, said Attardo. CMOS 7S chips will move into mass production next year and IBM initially will concentrate on using copper to make microprocessors and static RAM. The first IBM systems incorporating the new chips will be IBM's mainframes and high-end servers such as AS/400 and RS/6000 in 1998, said Attardo.
Attardo would also like to see a rise in the number of chips sold for consumer communication products, which currently account for 10 to 15% of IBM's chip sales. Attardo wants that to grow to 30 to 40% in coming years.
IBM's Corbeil-Essonnes semiconductor plant outside Paris has 3,600 employees and 200,000 square metres of building space and is the biggest semiconductor plant in Europe, according to IBM. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, France's Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry yesterday officially opened the line for manufacturing 0.35 and 0.5 micron 64Mbit DRAM chips.
Strauss-Kahn took the opportunity to underline his wish to see French industrial talent pursuing careers in France rather than abroad and said he would like France to become one of the most technologically important countries in Europe. Strauss-Kahn's remarks were in keeping with the French government's launch in September of two "missions" aimed at finding the best way to encourage technological advances in France. The first mission is studying ways to improve industrial innovation and technological development and the second is examining electronic commerce.