INTEL 7NM PROGRESS

Intel_logoWhile a lot of media coverage over the problems with 10nm, Intel’s 7nm team has been able to make significant progress at improving the production.

On February 8 2017 Intel announced a $7B investment in Arizona’s Fab 42 which will eventually produce chips on a 7 nm process.

EUVL is maturing and it seems that 7nm will be available with any luck in about 4 years time. Intel should have spend more on EUVL technology given the headaches of deep UV lithography.

The use of extreme EUV lithography with the typical step and scan approach will probably give some headaches as the amount of equipment needed is still rather extensive. Intel needs at least 100,000 wafers a month to keep up with demand.

Work to improve on the situation has been a focus for a long time. The whole industry has struggled as smaller sizes become more productive.

With 7nm becoming more prevalent in the next decade will bring larger capacity SSD drives, higher capacity DIMMs and faster processors. It it now closer to the limits of semiconductor development as smaller features will be plagued by quantum effects so badly it’s hard to know if anything can be done to mitigate it.

Intel is still slow to get yields to satisfactory levels with 10nm, which suggests 7nm may be even harder to manage. Time will tell as to how well the industry can cope over the next decade.

Smaller sizes are on some roadmaps but these are more speculation than substantive. Given the problems with the industry now, its likely to be even more expensive down the road.