Currently, the 10nm process is used to produce just a handful of CPUs, ahead of an expected ramp to high-volume manufacturing (HVM) only later in 2019.
But according to Anandtech,while Intel’s 10 nm is proving to be pants its 7 nm tech is on-track for introduction following its original schedule.
This means that 10nm might be only a holding technology for Intel. Chipzilla said that it set too aggressive scaling/transistor density targets for its 10 nm fabrication process, which is why its development ran into problems.
Intel’s 10 nm 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 10 nm, the process had to make heavy use of multi-patterning.
According to Intel, a problem of the process was precisely its heavy usage of multi patterning (quad-patterning to be more exact).
However, its 7 nm production tech will use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) with a laser wavelength of 13.5 nm for select layers, reducing the use of multipatterning for certain metal layers and simplifying production and shortening cycle times.
Since the 7 nm fabrication process had been in development separately from the 10 nm tech and by a different team development is well underway and is projected to enter HVM according to Intel’s unannounced roadmap.
Murthy Renduchintala, chief engineering officer and president of technology, systems architecture and client group at Intel is quoted to have said at the Nasdaq's 39th Investor Conference: “7 nm for us is a separate team and largely a separate effort. We are quite pleased with our progress on 7 nm… very pleased with our progress at 7 nm. I think that we have taken a lot of lessons out of the 10 nm experience as we defined that and defined a different optimisation point between transistor density, power and performance, and schedule predictability. So, we are very, focused on getting 7 nm out according to our original internal plans.”
Intel plans to start HVM production of client CPUs using its 10 nm process technology in 2019, with data center products following on a bit later. It will not skip any of its already announced 10 nm products, but its 7 nm products may arrive sooner than the four years generally expected for a production process change.
Renduchintala said: “One thing I will say is that as you look at 7 nm, for us this is really now a point in time where we will get EUV back into the manufacturing matrix, and therefore, I think, that will give us a degree of back to the traditional Moore’s Law cadence that we were really talking about,”
So far Intel has announced plans for only one 7 nm fab: the Fab 42 in Arizona. In addition, the company is going to have some 7 nm-capable capacity at its D1 facility used for development and trials (among other things).