Welcome back! In case you missed last columnís picture of the winter scenery in Holland hereís another one; one thatíll immediately tell you where Iím at right now, as is evident from the large AMD logo. Iím at the AMD Fab 30 plant in Dresden participating in the AMD Media Workshop. Although it is pretty cold out here and the snow is about two feet deep, the plant is still churning out AMD Athlon XP CPUs at a rate of about 5000 wafers per week not at all bothered by the winter thatís in full swing here. At a few hundred Athlon XP CPUs per wafer thatís an impressive amount of 0.13-micron CPUs leaving the Fab 30 production line every day.
Fig 1. The AMD Fab 30 facility in Dresden, Germany. One of AMDís production lines for their 0.13-micron CPUs.
As some of you know I dropped out of a PhD. study in micro system architecture which basically covers chip manufacturing and all the technology and engineering thatís needed to manufacture semiconductors thus I felt right at home. Besides a very interesting factory tour, unfortunately no cameras were allowed, there were also a number of very technical and in-depth briefings about AMDís progress with SOI, Silicon On Insulator and PD SOI, Partially Depleted SOI and FD SOI, which stands for Fully Depleted SOI. Without going further into the details Iíll just mention that these are all advanced semiconductor techniques that AMD is using, or will be using, to push the clockspeed and performance of their CPUs to new heights.
Fig 2. A shot inside the AMD Fab 30 lobby, this was, unfortunately, as far as we could go with the camera.
Although Intel is still going strong with their successful aluminum based process with copper interconnects for the Pentium 4 CPUs and is actually moving towards a new technology, supposedly based on FD SOI, AMD is set to explore new grounds and was quick to point out some of the benefits of copper and gave some prime examples of other companies implementing copper in their semiconductors. Although they couldnít show us any working samples of PD or FD SOI semiconductors it was clear that this where AMD will be heading in the next few years.
Tomorrow weíll be back at the plant were weíll again be attending a number of seminars which will talk about the performance of AMDís current and future CPUs as well as new benchmarking tools being developed to get a more accurate grasp on performance. So do check back tomorrow for an update and the latest on AMD's plans for the future. Naturally we'll do an in-depth follow-up article soon that'll cover all the technical details disclosed by AMD during the seminars and get into greater detail about what exactly AMD has got in store for us, this article can be found right here