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Thursday, September 13, 2012
Intel Says Is On Track To Make 10 nm Chips

Intel says that creating chips using the advanced 10 nm process technology is feasible by using the immersion lithography. In addition, the company is on track to start making chips in a 14 nm process technology before the end of next year.

Generally, transition scaling provides improvements in power and cost, but now with greater focus on power reduction. Scaling no longer follows a "classical" path and requires continued innovations in materials and structures. Specifically, a highly integrated approach is needed to succesfully bring innovative technologies from the research phase to high volume manufacturing.

Mark Bohr, director of Intel's technology and manufacturing group, said at IDF 2012 that the 10 nm process would debut in 2015 or later. Although the company has provided details on how it would proceed with the new demanding manufacturing processes, Bohr said it would require quadruple patterning for some mask layers. The company has also agreed to invest $4.1 billion in ASML to drive extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography forward.

Intel expects to use double patterning in some layers of some chips at 14 nm. If immersion is used at 10 nm, more layers will require double patterning and some will even require quadruple patterning, he said.

Multiple patterning means increased wafer costs, but Bohr claims that the cost will be offset by the improved transistor density.

Intel showcased the following picture showing the potential technologies that will be used in making 10nm chips. These are based around photonics, graphene, materials synthesis, dense memory, nanowires, extreme ultra violet lithography (EUV) and updated tri-gate transistors.

Intel's research group are also exploring technologies for 7nm and 5nm solutions.

Process development requires huge investments, but it also provides huge economic advantages for Intel.

ARM licenses its chips and they are made in foundries operated by Samsung, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and GlobalFoundries. AMD uses GlobalFoundries. Intel seems to have a three year lead over these companies in terms of process.

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