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66. Re: Why so long? Jul 23, 2004, 11:32 Zathrus
 
The answer is because newer, larger die chips (especially with immature technology) are printed on the same sized wafers as older, more prosaic chips

Er... actually the die size usually goes down as you use newer chips. That's because the line size goes down, decreasing the size of nearly every component on the chip. Take a look at die sizes of chip generations -- while transistor count is increasing the line width is decreasing, as is the overall die size. You actually get more chips/wafer with newer technology. And the industry is finally transitioning to 300 mm (12") wafers (which surprises the crap out of me... we were using 12" wafers in the two of the three fabs I worked in. A decade ago.), which further improves potential yield.

Want to know what really causes price increases, particularly at the start of a new line? Yield. If you can, theoretically, get 100 chips off a wafer and you only get 30 once everything is said and done (the others failed due to process errors, contamination, or whatever -- they're simply not viable chips) then you have a 30% yield. For most companies a 40% yield on a brand new line is good. Rumor is Intel used to get around 80% yield on a new line, which is absolutely amazing. But Intel had the best process engineers for decades.

Thing is, making that wafer costs the same amount of money no matter how many CPUs you get off it. So increasing yield leads directly to improved profits. Particularly since you can't subsidize the R&D or other fixed costs (like the fab itself) with bad chips. And you want to pay off those fixed costs as quickly as possible, because you never know how long you're going to be able to keep your prices up. So those first few chips off the line get priced very, very high relative to manufacturing costs.

 
 
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