from the decadeometer dept.
Intel on Thursday announced that it would delay mass production of its 10 nm processors from 2018 to 2019 due to yield issues. The company has claimed to be shipping some of its 10 nm chips in small volumes right now, but due to cost reasons the firm does not intend to initiate their high-volume manufacturing (HVM) at this time. Intel executives also stated that they are confident of their product roadmap and intend to launch Whiskey Lake and Cascade Lake products later this year.
[...] Intel blames a very high transistor density and consequent heavy use of multipatterning for low yields. Brian Krzanich has said that in certain cases the company needs to use quad (4x), penta (5x), or hexa (6x) patterning for select features as they need to expose the wafer up to six times to "draw" one feature. This not only lengthens Intel's manufacturing cycle (which by definition rises costs) and the number of masks it uses, but also has an effect on yields.
Intel's 10 nm fabrication technology relies solely on deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography with lasers operating on a 193 nm wavelength at this time. The company's 7 nm manufacturing process will use extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography with laser wavelength of 13.5 nm for select layers, eliminating use of extreme multipatterning for certain metal layers. As it appears, right now Intel executives do not consider EUV technology ready for prime time in 2019, so the company's engineers have to polish off the last DUV-only process (again) rather than jump straight to 7 nm.
The delay means another generation of "14nm" products:
Intel does not elaborate whether it intends to ship (in volume) its 10 nm CPUs in the first half or the second half of 2019, but only says that the company’s engineers know the source of the yield problems and are working hard to fix them. As a result, it is pretty safe to assume that the actual ramp of Intel’s 10 nm production will begin towards the second half of next year.
In a bid to stay competitive before its 10-nm CPUs ship in the H2 2019 – H1 2020 (production ramp takes time, bigger processors will launch later than smaller parts), Intel plans to release another generation of products made using its 14 nm process tech. This generation of chips includes Whiskey Lake products for client PCs and Cascade Lake for the datacenter, and both are scheduled for release later this year.
We've confirmed through multiple sources that Intel is fabbing its new H310C chipset on its 22nm process. That means the chip-making giant has taken a step back to an older process for the H310C chipset as it struggles with its ongoing shortage of 14nm processors. Contrary to recent reports, our sources confirmed Intel manufactures these chips and not TSMC (which has been reported in recent weeks), though that could be subject to change in the future.
The shift in Intel's strategy comes as the company struggles with the fallout from its chronically delayed 10nm process. Now the company is dealing with an increasingly loud chorus of reports that Intel's 14nm shortage is now impacting its server, desktop and mobile chips.
[...] Intel typically produces chipsets on a larger node than its current-gen processors, but the delayed 10nm production has found both chipsets and chips on the same 14nm node, creating a manufacturing bottleneck as the company experiences record demand for 14nm processors.
Intel's CFO and interim CEO Bob Swan penned an open letter to its customers and partners today outlining the steps it is taking to address a persistent and worsening shortage of 14nm processors.
[...] The shortage impacts nearly every aspect of Intel's business, from desktops to laptops, servers and even chipsets, so Intel is making the sound business decision to prioritize high-margin products. The firm has also expanded its testing capacity by diverting some work to a facility in Vietnam.
[...] Intel's statement also assures us that processors built on its 10nm fabrication will arrive in volume in 2019. Intel had previously stated that 10nm processors would be available in 2019, but hadn't made the distinction that they would arrive in volume. That's a positive sign, as the oft-delayed 10nm production is surely a contributing factor to the shortage. Intel also cites the booming desktop PC market, which has outstripped the company's original estimates earlier this year, as a catalyst.
In either case, Intel concedes that "supply is undoubtedly tight, particularly in the entry-level of the PC market" but doesn't provide a firm timeline for when the processors will become fully available. Intel's letter also touts its $1 billion investment in 14nm fabs this year, but half of that capital expenditure was scheduled prior to its first public acknowledgement of the shortage. Given Intel's foresight into the production challenges, the prior $500 million investment was likely in response to the increases in demand and looming production shortfall.
Originally planned to enter mass production in the second half of 2016, Intel's 10nm process technology is still barely used by the company today. Currently the process is used to produce just a handful of CPUs, ahead of an expected ramp to high-volume manufacturing (HVM) only later in 2019. Without a doubt, Intel suffered delays on its 10nm process by several years, significantly impacting the company's product lineup and its business.
Now, as it turns out, Intel's 10nm may be a short-living node as the company's 7nm tech is on-track for introduction in accordance with its original schedule.
For a number of times Intel said that it set too aggressive scaling/transistor density targets for its 10nm fabrication process, which is why its development ran into problems. Intel's 10nm manufacturing tech relies exclusively on deep ultraviolet lithography (DUVL) with lasers operating on a 193 nm wavelength. To enable the fine feature sizes that Intel set out to achieve on 10nm, the process had to make heavy usage of mutli-patterning. According to Intel, a problem of the process was precisely its heavy usage of multipatterning (quad-patterning to be more exact).
By contrast, Intel's 7nm production tech will use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) with laser wavelength of 13.5 nm for select layers, reducing use of multipatterning for certain metal layers and therefore simplifying production and shortening cycle times. As it appears, the 7nm fabrication process had been in development separately from the 10nm tech and by a different team. As a result, its development is well underway and is projected to enter HVM in accordance with Intel's unannounced roadmap, the company says.
Meanwhile, an unconfirmed leak of AMD's Ryzen 3000 lineup shows a 12-core CPU at $300 and a 16-core CPU at $450.
Previously: Intel Delays Mass Production Of 10 nm CPUs To 2019
Intel Releases Open Letter in Attempt to Address Shortage of "14nm" Processors and "10nm" Delays
Intel Denies that It Will Cancel or Skip its "10nm" Process