Tuesday, September 06, 2011

U.S. Innovation, Manufacturing Are Alive and Well. Exhibit A: IBM and 3M Collaborate on 3D Chips

IBM and 3M's Breakthrough Stacked Chip Technology Will Be 1,000 Times Faster Than Today's Chips


Two of America's oldest and most successful manufacturers, 3M (founded in 1902) and IBM (founded in 1911), have teamed up to collaborate on a new 3D computer chip stacking process that could revolutionize computer technology.  According to a report posted just several hours ago on a Wall Street Journal blog,  
"Such three-dimensional structures could be 1,000 times faster than today’s individual chips, IBM estimates, ushering in much more powerful portable devices, PCs and server systems. Electronics companies now routinely stack a few chips together–particularly memory chips, for use in small devices like cellphones–but IBM is talking about bonding 100 or more chips together, including high-performance microprocessors.
What role will 3M play?
"Microprocessors generate heat, and gluing chips together would cause them to melt. That’s where 3M comes in. The Minnesota-based materials company will work with IBM to develop special heat-dissipating adhesives that can safely conduct heat away from chips, and processes that can coat hundreds or thousands of chips with glues at one time."

"You want to ultimately make a brick of silicon,” says Bernard Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of research. “That does not exist today.”
MP: Watch the video above to see how the chip-stacking process works.  The commercial availability of brick-style computers might be several years away, but this new developing breakthrough innovation from two old-line, 100-year old iconic American manufacturers tells us that "Made in the USA" is alive and well, and America is still the World's No. 1 Innovator.  

24 Comments:

At 9/06/2011 11:54 PM, OpenID American Delight said...

And here I thought 3M only made self-adhesive plastic wall hooks.

 
At 9/07/2011 1:47 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Doubt this will go anywhere, doesn't seem promising. Most chips are currently a single layer of transistors and if you look inside your computer, you'll see a big hunk of metal and a fan strapped to your microprocessor, both trying to suck the heat out before it melts the chip itself. This adhesive would somehow have to wick that heat away without melting, sounds impossible to me. These guys might want to announce when they actually accomplish something, rather than trumpeting the fact that they're merely working together.

 
At 9/07/2011 2:14 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"These guys might want to announce when they actually accomplish something, rather than trumpeting the fact that they're merely working together."

I'm sure that when they read your comment, they'll realize their foolishness and abandon this line of research, before they further embarrass themselves. :)

 
At 9/07/2011 3:24 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

Then train our people upwards, manufacture massively and export first-class technology across the world - instead of handing it to the Third World, ending up with a Third World product that simply gets dressed up for the US market.

 
At 9/07/2011 5:31 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from sethstorm: "Then train our people ..."

What do you mean "our people"?

 
At 9/07/2011 5:37 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

geoih said:
US citizens, especially the unemployed of any length of time.

As in:

"Then train US citizens upwards..."

 
At 9/07/2011 9:01 AM, Blogger Sean said...

3D is announced pretty much every year: one day we'll figure out how to make "silicon bricks" and solve the heat dissipation issues: don't know about this try. I suspect what will really make this work is that most of the brick will be inactive at any given time. Maybe the next "re-configurable" computing device will really be a device that has accelerators for everything, but doesn't usually use them?
I can certainly imagine a point at which transistors are dirt cheap, but the power budget isn't.

 
At 9/07/2011 9:22 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

seth-

and who is going to provide and pay for this training?

who is going to make sure those trained have the aptitude?

you clearly do not.

manufacturing chips is not a process that uses humnas anymore.

a boat of 300mm wafers weighs 90 pounds and may well be worth millions of dollars.

you'd never even let a human pick that up. it's all robots and machines that work to nanometer tolerances.

there are no humans on a chip assembly line.

there are chip designers who have large amounts of aptitude and serious schooling (not the sort of thing you could train even an extremely bright unemployed person for in fewer than 4-6 years or train most people for at all) but that's it.

you really ought to get a rudimentary understanding of what you are talking about before you make comments like that. first class high tech is not made with semi skilled workers. at best, there are some very low value add assembly jobs.

those are useless here. the guy who assembled you iphone made 10% of what the guy who assembled your big mac did.

 
At 9/07/2011 9:27 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

rewarding silicon bricks-

IBM (along with guys like corning) is one of the few companies that still does a lot of non readily commercialzable primary research. they do it to try and push technology forward and achieve breakthroughs. it's a laudable goal, and i think it has paid for itself.

but silicon bricks have been the "big idea" for a decade. silicon is an insulator. building a brick of it is going to trap vast heat, especially at high cycle speeds.

they would need a really dramatic materials science breakthrough to make this work. i am not even aware of anything with physical properties that could make it work (but i am not a semiconductor engineer either).

IBM has a bit of a tendency toward breathless press releases about "the next big thing" that rarely pan out.

this is likely just another one of those. i'd love for them to be right about this, but i'm still very skeptical.

 
At 9/07/2011 9:39 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Choose your favorite blind pig:

http://listverse.com/2007/10/28/top-30-failed-technology-predictions/

 
At 9/07/2011 11:32 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Doubt this will go anywhere, doesn't seem promising. Most chips are currently a single layer of transistors and if you look inside your computer, you'll see a big hunk of metal and a fan strapped to your microprocessor"...

Hey sprewell, have you ever used the product called Loctite?

Its a cyano-acrylic based adhesive that has heat shedding properties...

Its been around for a long time but obviously this particular type of adhesive won't work.

I'm guessing that 3M will have the potential to develop another adhesive that will have similer properties...

 
At 9/07/2011 11:34 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

"This adhesive would somehow have to wick that heat away without melting, sounds impossible to me." Hmmm, let's check out 3-M and see if they are "accomplishing something".

3-M Thermally Conducive Adhesive Transfer Tape; Scotch tape with "with highly conducive ceramic particles" -- Amazing.

Yes, U.S. innovation is alive and well, BUT how long can trade secrets and intellectual property theft and extortion, be tolerated with America's #1 "trading partner"? Most recent example is China insists on Chevy Volt tech secrets in exchange for Chinese market access.

 
At 9/07/2011 2:31 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"...how long can trade secrets and intellectual property theft and extortion, be tolerated with America's #1 "trading partner"?"...

Well you see buddy Obama notes there's a precidence for this sort of behavior by China, hence the lack of action or comment regarding the transfer of sensitive, proprietary intellectual property...

Example #1 Slick Willie and Bernie Schwartz in China's missile garden

Example #2 The Dope from Hope and computers for his Russian friends

 
At 9/07/2011 2:38 PM, Blogger Innovation rules said...

Some years after IBM foolishly outsourced their hardware brand to Intel and software to Microsoft because they thought PCs were a fad, they partnered with Sony to build Playstation 3s using their risc technology.

IBM's risc processors were multiple times faster than Intel chips, capable of running x86 programs in software layered compatability mode faster than Intel. Sony provided PC like volumes.

Many industry observers thought IBM might attempt to reclaim their PC heritage, leveraging Sony's volume to become competitive with Intel economies of scale.

Obviously, this apparent opportunity never came to fruition for a number of reasons. One of them was apparent in the Playstation III; though it was fast, it lacked wireless, technology connectivity and had a number of other hardware deficiencies. Meanwhile Intel added dual core architecture that was risc's advantage.

The linked article on IBM and 3M sounds more like a shareholder PR puff piece than the dawn of a new day. When it comes to technology, believe it when you see it.

And BTW, despite the excellently played out media campaign, 3M is just plain organizationally muddled.

 
At 9/07/2011 3:05 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Ron, perhaps if they listen to me, they could save themselves some time and money. :)

Sean, I think that is what they're thinking about doing, the video mentions interleaving hotter cpu layers with cooler memory layers.

Juandos, never heard of loctite before but a mechanical fastener is much simpler than 3-d stacking and cooling of computer chips. I think it's interesting that these two companies are working together rather than the usual "Not Invented Here" syndrome, but I suspect 3M will not bring much to the table. This reminds me of articles in the Economist about OLED displays a decade ago, saying they were just around the bend, but they have yet to take over a decade later. Now this was an actual technology at the time, not just a press release of future collaboration, but scaling the tech up to larger displays at mass production has taken much longer than expected. OLEDs have been successful at small display sizes though, with the coolest new devices sporting them these days. The point is that these fundamental changes in hardware take a lot longer than you think, if they happen at all.

As for Clinton not caring about SGI machines being sold to the Russians, eh, I bet they could have got them regardless or just bought something else, like the North Koreans were supposedly doing with Japanese PS2s. Computing is pretty fungible and widespread, tough to keep it hemmed in.

 
At 9/07/2011 3:27 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Juandos, never heard of loctite before but a mechanical fastener is much simpler than 3-d stacking and cooling of computer chips"...

True sprewell, under most circumstances I would agree with that, always go with the K.I.S.S. theory...

Back in the days when I was chemist and it was thought that Nixon would allow private companies to join in space ventures (neo based industries mostly robotic in nature) I was working for a subsidiary of Dow-Corning we were trying to develop heat shedding adhesives that worked in the vacuum of space but also kept its adhesive abilities in the 500+ degree ( -250 to +250) temperature swings...

Considering the technology at that time adhesives were a must since metallurgic technologies of the day made fastners on a few items tricky at best...

Large solar panel arrays and external heat pump parts are two of the things that come to mind off hand...

Well that all turned out to be wasted effort since the federal government insisted on inserting itself into every segment of the R&D and then the manufacturing of anything and everything that might've been space bound...

 
At 9/07/2011 4:00 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Juandos, interesting, I didn't know that Nixon and the feds forced out the private efforts like that. Now that Facebook funder Peter Thiel has put more than a million dollars into seasteading, maybe there will be more of an effort to create similar "space-steads" in the coming years. However, it probably won't be for many decades, as seasteading is hard enough right now, Thiel estimates at least 50 more years for the space version. But hey, somebody's got to start working on it now. ;) I know I'm going to try to get some space on those seasteads when they're out. :)

 
At 9/07/2011 4:27 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Innovation rules: IBM had trouble bringing down the power consumption and heat production of the PowerPC chips, particularly the G5 and later models.

That's one of the reasons why Apple switched to Intel (and never released a PowerPC G5 PowerBook).

 
At 9/07/2011 4:32 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

geoih

"What do you mean "our people"?"

Sethstorm has "people".

 
At 9/07/2011 4:54 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"...maybe there will be more of an effort to create similar "space-steads" in the coming years"...

Yep! Burt Rutan and Richard Branson and their team (Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic) are hard at it to make space flight a reality...

An outfit out of Barcelona Spain will supposedly have neo based hotel next year...

 
At 9/08/2011 5:30 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...


and who is going to provide and pay for this training?

The company that wants the work to be done. That would motivate them to provide relevant and cost-effective training.

You clearly forget that those machines aren't completely self-maintained without any human intervention.

What you call "low value add jobs" are the ways you enter such industry. Not useless at all.

 
At 9/08/2011 5:43 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from sethstorm: "US citizens, especially the unemployed of any length of time."

Sorry, I don't recognize your brand of bigotry as something I should support. Why should people who happen to have been born in one particular geographic location be given special preference over people born in other geographic locations. It seems very arbitrary.

Next you'll be wanting to discriminate against people because of their gender, or the color of their skin.

 
At 9/09/2011 4:12 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...


geoih said...

It is not impossible for someone from another country to become a naturalized US citizen.

Second, aiding and abetting hostile foreign powers like China is not something the US is obligated to do, as you might imply.

 
At 9/09/2011 8:50 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from sethstorm: "Second, aiding and abetting hostile foreign powers like China is not something the US is obligated to do, as you might imply."

I didn't imply anything like that. I don't think I have any obligation to give my wealth to somebody else simply because they happen to live on the same side of some arbitrary line drawn on a map.

If somebody in China can make something and ship it to me for cheaper than somebody who lives across the street, why should I be forced to buy it from across the street?

 

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