China to fab its own microprocessors

Fab to be built using locally designed and manufactured tools.

Longsoon chipYou may have heard of Godson, the magical Chinese microprocessor that people talk a lot about. Godson is a series of MIPS compatible processors covering everything from handhelds and upwards including an 8 core beast for high performance computing. The processor has been designed primarily by professor Weiwu Hu, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

He has now set up Longson – a commercial company to further the development, sales and marketing.  Longson currently has 300 employees, but Weiwu expects it to expand to about 1,000 in 3 years. So far Longson has used a foundry for manufacturing, but that is about to change dramatically.

We sat down with Weiwu Hu, the designer of the processor here in Beijing, and he told us that the plan is to fab the future generations of the microprocessor locally. Now, opening a fab in China is nothing new. They exist in Shanghai, where it is locally owned – and Intel also has one producing chip sets, but Weiwu plans something completely different. He wants to design and manufacture a lot of the equipment that goes into the fab locally.

The Chinese government and the city government of Beijing have approved the funds a construct the fab, but we are probably talking at least 5 years before we see the first product roll out of the plant.  Current microprocessors are fabbed in a fairly conservative 65 nm process by STMicroelectronics. Weiwu has decided to skip over 45 nm and go directly to 28 nm for the next generation – and that could be manufactured by either ST or TSMC in Taiwan. But after that – it should be mostly local production.

The ultimate goal for Longson is to start exporting their processors to US and Europe, where at least Google is known to be very interested.S|A

Updated: Lonhorn is not Longson.  Insert obligatory comment about auto-correct on phones.

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