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 user 2007-11-16 at 11:46:00 am Views: 46
  • #21147

    In New Advance, Ink Used in Chips
    2007A Silicon Valley start-up is claiming a breakthrough in producing
    simple semiconductors by using a printing process, a goal for many
    companies hoping to drive down the cost of electronic products.Kovio,
    whose backers include widely known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla,
    says it has developed a kind of silicon ink that can be sprayed on
    flexible surfaces using commercial printing systems. Where some
    companies have developed circuit-printing approaches with various
    organic and inorganic materials, Kovio says it has used its
    silicon-based process to build unusually fast devices called
    thin-filmed transistors.”They look like they can be as cheap if not
    cheaper than those working with organic materials,” says Raghu Das, an
    analyst at IDTechEx, a market-research firm in Cambridge, England. “But
    the performance of their devices is much higher.”

    Closely held
    Kovio, of Sunnyvale, Calif., hopes to apply its technology initially to
    RFID, or radio frequency identification tags, a field where low cost is
    The race to apply printing techniques to electronics has
    interested many large and small companies. Conventional computer chips
    are fabricated by tracing circuit patterns on silicon wafers, building
    and connecting transistors by adding and removing materials. Companies
    such as Intel Corp. routinely spend $3 billion on a chip factory, yet
    spraying on circuitry with inkjet-style printers could create usable
    products for a fraction of the cost, backers of the concept say.

    that printing technology is expected to catch the capabilities of chip
    makers, which now build hundreds of millions of transistors on each
    product. But Kovio is confident that by the end of next year it will
    make devices with less than a thousand transistors that are
    sophisticated enough for many RFID applications, such as identifying
    medicine bottles.”Intel’s claiming that they can put 30 million
    transistors on the head of a pin,” says Amir Mashkoori, Kovio’s
    chairman and chief executive. “All we’re trying to do is put a few
    hundred transistors on a bottle.”

    The company’s claims about the
    benefits of its manufacturing process are likely to be closely
    scrutinized, because rivals in markets such as RFID are rapidly driving
    down the cost of products based on extremely tiny chips. Kovio has “a
    promising technology,” said Victor Vega, director of technical
    marketing at Alien Technology Corp., a specialist in the field. “But
    it’s very premature still.”Kovio’s data shows that electrons move
    through its printed transistors at about a fifth the speed of
    transistors in a typical Intel chip but are about 100 times the speed
    of simpler semiconductors used in computer displays, said Vivek
    Subramanian, a company advisor who is an associate professor of
    electrical engineering and computer science at the University of
    California at Berkeley.The company’s plans have attracted a unit of
    Cubic Corp. that makes automated fare-collection systems used in
    subways and other transportation systems. Walt Bonneau, a Cubic senior
    vice president and general manager, says he believes Kovio’s technology
    can help reduce the cost of tags on new RFID-based fare cards that
    riders pass near a wireless reader — replacing paper versions with
    magnetic stripes that are slid through turnstiles.