Computing power ‘limited by economics, not the laws of physics’

London, England – Veteran IT commentator, Jack Schofield of the Manchester Guardian, claims that future chip development could be slowed because fabs will become so expensive to build, their costs could never be recouped.

Intel is spending $7bn upgrading seven US fabs, while Global Foundries is spending roughly the same amount on its new fab in upstate New York – helped by more than a billion dollars of grants from New York State and backed with another six billion from the government of Abu Dhabi.

But the article points out that by the time fabs start producing chips using a process below 18nm, in about five years’ time, the manufacturing equipment will be so expensive – some machines already cost more than $20 million apiece – that the investment in plant may never be recovered.

While the big players like Intel and Samsung have deep enough pockets to maintain the level of investment required, others will be forced to turn to foundry operations like Global Foundries and TSMC.

Upgrading to 450mm wafers would help the economics of chip production, but the cost of re-tooling from 300mm is truly terrifying, meaning we’re unlikely to see them in use much before 2018.

Check out Schofield’s story here. As always, it’s well worth reading.

See also:
Global Foundries starts work on new fab