2018 wasn’t the best year for Intel. The company was hit by major supply issues on their 14nm node causing a significant rise in pricing on most of their products. They also faced stiff competition from AMD in both consumer and server markets. But all might not be gloom as 7nm might be on track for the company according to recent article by Anandtech.
The 10nm Conundrum
People have been hearing about Intel’s Mythical 10nm processors for quite sometime. They showed up in roadmaps quite often, but were always pushed back for some reason.
SemiAccurate dropped a bombshell when they reported that Intel was killing off their 10nm project and the company would instead focus on smaller nodes. Intel was quick to respond, they stated 10nm was well and alive.
The 7nm Savior
Recently Murthy Renduchintala, Intel’s chief engineering officer attended the Nasdaq Investor Conference in London. There he talked about Intel’s problem with 10nm and how they (Intel) were over-aggressive in shrinking down the process node. Intel had throughout held very tight norms on results from 10nm, with respect to density and other factors. Clearly these weren’t achieved, hence the delays.
But Murthy Renduchintala reiterates that this won’t be the same with their 7nm node, as it’s being worked on by an entirely different team. He states “Well, 7nm for us is a separate team and a largely separate effort, And we are quite pleased with our progress on 7nm – in fact very pleased with our progress on 7nm – and I think that we have taken a lot of lessons out of the 10nm experience as we defined that and defined a different optimization point between transistor density, power and performance and schedule predictability.”
Intel’s jump to 7nm will take a few years, maybe more. As Anandtech points out, Intel’s 7nm will use extreme ultraviolet lithography for fabrication. A lot of foundries are investing big on 7nm production plants right now, including TSMC and Global Foundries. There are mobile chips on 7nm, but they are manufactured using Deep Ultraviolet Lithography, which isn’t as tight as EUVL. Again, comparing lithographic figures from different companies is like comparing apples and oranges. Different companies have different notions on what they might call 10nm or 7nm.
Anyways, Intel isn’t the only one with their sights on 7nm as even AMD has plans for chips on actual 7nm+ nodes using EUV, by 2020. It’s in Intel’s best interest to match that timeline, given the heated competition from other chip manufacturers.