Centaur Technologies Tour – Making The Via Nano CPU

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VIA Nano Testing

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They are testing Nano processor of course! Centaur does in-house manual assembly (chip onto package) of processors at the facility I was visiting. Sadly, Centaur didn’t have any uncut wafers of the VIA Nano processor the day of my tour. If they were working with wafers this is one of the machines that the wafers are inserted into to begin the processor of assembly.

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Since I didn’t get a chance to see a wafer full of Nano processors I was shown a wafer of Via C7 processors!

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Pictured above are eight full trays of VIA Nano processors that are ready to be sorted! They had thousands of freshly cut and made Nano processors that were ready for testing if you looked around the room. It should be noted that the entire VIA Nano processor family uses Fujitsu’s 65 nanometer process technology for and features a compact 21mm x 21mm nanoBGA2 package. Once Centaur gets the wafer back from Fujitsu they then complete the assembly of the processor and move on to testing and speed binning.

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Pictured above is one of the burn-in ovens that Centaur uses to test hundreds of processors at a time and Centaur has a few of these ovens.

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Here is a close up of a single testing ‘tray’ and as you can see it uses an impressive TEC heating/cooling system as well as a liquid cooling system. As you can see each ‘tray’ can handle 20 processors, so each chamber can do 240 processors at a time!  This is good as the burn-in process can last a number of hours depending on what Centaur runs. If you look real close you can see a can of WD-40 in the picture (not sure what it is used for to be honest) and while I searched for some duct tape I just couldn’t find any, but there was a roll of tape next to the WD-40.  It’s always amazing what you see sitting around labs, but after all it is a lab! 

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Centaur had a number of systems set up at workers’ desks that were being used for testing VIA Nano processors while we were there. It should be noted that Centaur uses both retail production type boards and also development platforms for testing. 

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At this test station these two individuals were individually testing Nano processors at various speeds and temperatures to see if they pass stress testing. If you are curious what Centuar was testing you are in luck. Centaur was checking to see if the VIA Nano CPU’s were stable at 1.8GHz at three different temperatures (85C, 5C and then 25C)with 1.1V on production platforms. The processors that pass testing at this stage move along to become VIA Nano L2100 processors, which are the 1.8GHz processors. I was able to see VIA Nano processors get speed binned right in front my eyes!

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This station is used for parametric analysis set-up and testing. While I was there this station was actually in use with the thermal-controlled CPU analysis station in the image above.

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While talking to various employees I came across a group that was trying to solve a booting issue with the VIA Nano processor and Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Without getting too technical all processors have fuses that can be blown to enable and disable various areas of the processor.  Centaur discovered that by blowing one specific fuse that they created a booting issue with Ubuntu 8.04 LTS.  I listened in for a bit and in a matter of minutes they were able to find the cause of a problem and fix it while I was standing there! 

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