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Intel CEO Lays Plans to Once Again Lead World Semiconductor Production

“Building on Intel’s unquestioned leadership in advanced packaging, we are accelerating our innovation roadmap to ensure we are on a clear path to process performance leadership by 2025,” said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger yesterday at Intel’s Announcement Webcast. The event was used to outline a new roadmap for the way Intel  plans to innovate, brand and ultimately lead semiconductor production over the next five years.

intel process technology innovations timeline

This news comes at a time where many view Intel to be one of the weaker performers in semiconductor technology. Intel’s latest offering is their 10nm Superfin—with the release of their 7nm chip being delayed until 2022. But even if Intel managed to push out the 7nm chip earlier, leaders in this field such as Apple are using 5nm chips in their laptops, tablets, and will be implementing them in their new line of iPhone 13’s this fall.

Intel Changes Semiconductor Naming Convention

While Gelsinger went through a slough of different technological developments, the portion that generated peak buzz was in Intel’s decision to break away from the industries nanometer-based naming convention, which some are saying is a deliberate tactic used by Intel meant to take focus away from the fact that when it comes to size, Intel trails the pack.

The taxonomy changes are as follows: the 10nm Superfin is now the ‘Intel 7’; the 7nm is now the ‘Intel 4’; and the 7+ is now the ‘Intel 3’. Then there is the Intel 20A, which is being introduced as the first ever in the “Angstrom era of semiconductors.” The Angstrom would be a new unit of measurement that’s even smaller than the nanometer; it would have a conversion rate of 1nm:10 Angstroms.

intel's new node naming

The logic behind Intel’s choice to shake up naming conventions is the claim that their way is more accurate because performance is better measured on a per watt basis rather than on density and transistor size. But there are those who aren’t buying into the PR. Bernstein analyst Stacy Ragson said in a note that “As Intel has lost the node-marketing war, they are now giving up entirely. Renaming their codes to match TSMC’s (Taiwan Semiconductors Manufacturing Co.) scheme.”

Below is an outline of the timeline proposed by Intel:

  • Intel 7:  Available for product shipments in Q1 of 2022
  • Intel 4: Produced in 2022 and available for product shipments beginning in 2023
  • Intel 3: Available to be used in products for the back half of 2023
  • Intel 20A: Available in 2024
  • Intel 18A: Available use in 2025

Intel’s Tech Process Revelations

Gelsinger also used the webcast to speak about two new technological breakthroughs—the RibbonFET and the PowerVia—that are to be used in the Intel 20A as part of the introduction to the “Armstrong Era.”

The RibbonFET is the first new transistor architecture that Intel has released in more than a decade. According to Intel’s press release, “RibbonFET is Intel’s implementation of a gate-all-around transistor. The technology delivers faster transistor switching speeds while achieving the same drive current as multiple fins in a smaller footprint.”

Also introduced at the Announcement Webcast was the PowerVia, which does away with front side power routing and instead offers backside power delivery that will increase signal transmission.

Intel also offered insight and updates into their Foreveros 3D chip-stacking model.

Intel 20A new transistor innovations

According a report from The Verg’s Chaim Gartenberg, “Foveros Omni will allow for more variety in stacked chips by making it easier to mix-and-match tiles, regardless of their specific size — for example, allowing for a base tile that’s smaller than the top tile in a stack. And Foveros Direct will allow for direct copper-to-copper bonding between components, reducing resistance and decreasing bump pitches. Both of the new Foveros technologies are planned for production in 2023.”

Intel Accelerated 2021 process innovation

These announcements, of course, depend on Intel’s ability to follow through on their strategy to reclaim the coveted semiconductor throne. And with the abiding effects of material shortages and supply chain hiccups, this effort is rightfully being met with skepticism. But regardless of doubt or confidence, the plan has been laid, incubated, and hatched—and all that’s left now is to see whether or not Intel has what it takes to get back on top.

Source: Intel

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