Texas Instruments taps China

In another sign of the rapid advances being made by China’s nascent semiconductor manufacturing industry, Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) has chosen Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) as its first Chinese foundry partner. SMIC is expected to produce chips for TI using a 130-nanometer (0.13-micron) process technology.

Following an agreement reached between the two companies earlier this year, SMIC is expected to begin in early 2003 qualifying (test) production of chips at its Shanghai wafer fabrication (fab) facility using the 130-nanometer process, said Desmond Wong, a TI spokesman.

SMIC will not produce complete chips for TI. Instead, the company will complete the production of logic chips and wireless chipsets using wafers from TI’s fab in Dallas, Wong said. The chips produced by SMIC would be sold both in China and in other markets, he said.

Since beginning wafer production last year, SMIC has moved quickly to develop advanced process technologies, which are used to make chips. Last month, the company announced that it had finished qualifying production using a 180-nanometer process and had begun volume production using the technology.

A 130-nanometer production capability for SMIC would be a major technological advance for a Chinese fab and put SMIC on a par with many of the world’s top chip makers. Contacted for comment regarding the company’s 130-nanometer technology plans, SMIC spokesman Joseph Xie declined to comment.

While some of SMIC’s process technology has been developed in-house, the company has signed technology transfer and partnership agreements with several partners in Asia and Europe, including Toshiba Corp. in Japan, Singapore’s Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. and the Interuniversity Microelectronics Center in Belgium.

In addition to SMIC, TI has foundry agreements with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and United Microelectronics Corp. in Taiwan and Anam Semiconductor Inc. in South Korea.