from the small-progress dept.
Earlier today, it was reported that Intel is cancelling its troublesome 10nm manufacturing process. In an unusual response, the company has tweeted an official denial of the claims.
[...] The company's most recent estimate is that 10nm will go into volume production in the second half of 2019. The report from SemiAccurate cites internal sources saying that this isn't going to happen: while there may be a few 10nm chips, for the most part Intel is going to skip to its 7nm process.
Typically, Intel doesn't respond to rumors, but this one appears to be an exception. The company is tweeting that it's making "good progress" on 10nm and that yields are improving consistent with the guidance the company provided on its last earnings report. Intel's next earnings report is on Thursday, and we're likely to hear more about 10nm's progress then.
Related: Intel's "Tick-Tock" Strategy Stalls, 10nm Chips Delayed (it has been over 3 years since this article was posted)
Moore's Law: Not Dead? Intel Says its 10nm Chips Will Beat Samsung's
Intel's First 8th Generation Processors Are Just Updated 7th Generation Chips
Intel Releases Open Letter in Attempt to Address Shortage of "14nm" Processors and "10nm" Delays
Intel's "Tick-Tock" strategy of micro-architectural changes followed by die shrinks has officially stalled. Although Haswell and Broadwell chips have experienced delays, and Broadwell desktop chips have been overshadowed by Skylake, delays in introducing 10nm process node chips have resulted in Intel's famously optimistic roadmap missing its targets by about a whole year. 10nm Cannonlake chips were set to begin volume production in late 2016, but are now scheduled for the second half of 2017. In its place, a third generation of 14nm chips named "Kaby Lake" will be launched. It is unclear what improvements Kaby Lake will bring over Skylake.
Intel will not be relying on the long-delayed extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to make 10nm chips. The company's revenues for the last quarter were better than expected, despite the decline of the PC market. Intel's CEO revealed the stopgap 14nm generation at the Q2 2015 earnings call:
"The lithography is continuing to get more difficult as you try and scale and the number of multi-pattern steps you have to do is increasing," [Intel CEO Brian Krzanich] said, adding, "This is the longest period of time without a lithography node change."
[...] But Krzanich seemed confident that letting up on the gas, at least for now, is the right move – with the understanding that Intel will aim to get back onto its customary two-year cycle as soon as possible. "Our customers said, 'Look, we really want you to be predictable. That's as important as getting to that leading edge'," Krzanich said during Wednesday's earnings call. "We chose to actually just go ahead and insert – since nothing else had changed – insert this third wave [with Kaby Lake]. When we go from 10-nanometer to 7-nanometer, it will be another set of parameters that we'll reevaluate this."
|2014||14nm Broadwell||14nm Broadwell|
|2015||14nm Skylake||14nm Skylake|
|2016||10nm Cannonlake||14nm Kaby Lake|
|2017||10nm "Tock"||10nm Cannonlake|
Intel is talking about improvements it has made to transistor scaling for the 10nm process node, and claims that its version of 10nm will increase transistor density by 2.7x rather than doubling it.
On the face of it, three years between process shrinks, rather than the traditional two years, would appear to end Moore's Law. But Intel claims that's not so. The company says that the 14nm and 10nm process shrinks in particular more than doubled the transistor density. At 10nm, for example, the company names a couple of techniques that are enabling this "hyperscaling." Each logic cell (an arrangement of transistors to form a specific logic gate, such as a NAND gate or a flip flop) is surrounded by dummy gates: spacers to isolate one cell from its neighbor. Traditionally, two dummy gates have been used at the boundary of each cell; at 10nm, Intel is reducing this to a single dummy gate, thereby reducing the space occupied by each cell and allowing them to be packed more tightly.
Each gate has a number of contacts used to join them to the metal layers of the chip. Traditionally, the contact was offset from the gate. At 10nm, Intel is stacking the contacts on top of the gates, which it calls "contact over active gate." Again, this reduces the space each gate takes, increasing the transistor density.
The first "8th generation" Intel Core processors roll out today: a quartet of 15W U-series mobile processors. Prior generation U-series parts have had two cores, four threads; these new chips double that to four cores and eight threads. They also bump up the maximum clock speed to as much as 4.2GHz, though the base clock speed is sharply down at 1.9GHz for the top end part (compared to the 7th generation's 2.8GHz). But beyond those changes, there's little to say about the new chips, because in a lot of ways, the new chips aren't really new.
Although Intel is calling these parts "8th generation," their architecture, both for their CPU and their integrated GPU, is the same as "7th generation" Kaby Lake. In fact, Intel calls the architecture of these chips "Kaby Lake refresh." Kaby Lake was itself a minor update on Skylake, adding an improved GPU (with, for example, hardware-accelerated support for 4K H.265 video) and a clock speed bump. The new chips continue to be built on Intel's "14nm+" manufacturing process, albeit a somewhat refined one.
Source: Ars Technica
In the past we are used to a new numbered generation to come with a new core microarchitecture design. But this time Intel is improving a core design, calling it a refresh, and only releasing a few processors for the mobile family. We expect that Intel's 8th Generation will eventually contain three core designs of product on three different process design nodes: the launch today is Kaby Lake Refresh on 14+, and in the future we will see Coffee Lake on 14++ become part of the 8th Gen, as well as Cannon Lake on 10nm.
[...] So when is Coffee Lake on 14++ (or Cannon Lake) coming? Intel only stated that other members of the 8th Generation family (which contains Kaby Lake Refresh, Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake) are coming later this year. Desktop will come in the autumn, and additional products for enterprise, workstation and enthusiast notebooks will also happen. As for today's 8th Generation U-series announcement, Intel tells us that we should start seeing laptops using the new CPUs hit the market in September.
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