Taiwan’s plan to restructure its dynamic RAM industry seems to have met its end—not with a bang but with a whimper. The plan was to consolidate the industry and acquire new technology under the banner of a new company, Taiwan Innovation Memory Co. (TIMC), created in March 2009. In mid-November, the country’s lawmakers rejected the cabinet’s request for the National Development Fund to invest NT $5 billion (about US $150 million) in TIMC—all but ending what had turned out to be a pretty unpopular project.

The plan had its origins in 2008’s disastrous downturn. Then, DRAM makers around the world found themselves in a financial bind following an orgy of overcapacity and plummeting prices. Manufacturers in Europe, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan turned to their governments for help, although it was too late for Germany’s Qimonda, which went under early last year.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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