New process technology for the production of microcircuits is increasingly postponed - why?
In the end of August the manufacturer of semiconductor integrated circuits GlobalFoundries (works with AMD) has ceased development of 7-nanometer process technology. A few months before that, Intel announced , which again postpones release of its 10-nanometer chip.
The reasons for these decisions and the situation in the industry, we tell further.
/photo Intel Free Press CC
A few words about the technological processes
Individual transistors on the chip are formed by method of lithography - Elements are etched on the crystal with the help of light. Companies reduce the process technology (emitter resolution) to increase the number of products from one billet and reduce the power consumption of the final chip. The manufacturer gets the opportunity to increase the speed of the chip, leaving its size at the same level.
For a long time, this trend (to reduce technical processes) remained fair. But now IT companies have begun to postpone or even stop the development of new technical processes. In part, this is due to higher equipment costs and a high level of marriage.
More details in the situation are discussed further.
Why GlobalFoundries canceled 7-nm
GlobalFoundries produce silicon wafers at eight plants around the world. The company was supposed to launch a 7-nm chip in the second quarter of 2018. However, a couple of weeks before the expected release, GlobalFoundries decided to cancel everything.
Instead, the organization is will concentrate their efforts to develop specialized production standards 14LPP (Low-Power Plus) and 12LP (Leading-Performance) and the creation of various built-in storage devices .
Platform 14LPP Is an improved version of the 14-nm process based on 3D FinFET transistor. It increases the performance of devices by 55% and reduces their power consumption by 60% (compared to 28-nm). A 12LP This is a manufacturing process for semiconductors, sharpened for the needs of AI, smartphones and automotive electronics.
By words CTO GlobalFoundries Gary Patton (Gary Patton), the reason for the strategic turn was not technical problems, but financial issues. The company invested billions of dollars in the development of 7-nanometer microchips. The first generation, which uses immersion lithography, was almost completed. But for the second and third (they required deeper UV ranges to increase the density of transistors), the funds were already scarce.
Along with the abolition of 7-nm, GlobalFoundries stopped the development of 5-nanometer and 3-nanometer process technology. Due to a change in exchange rate GlobalFoundries will reduce five percent of employees and review agreements with AMD and IBM. In particular, with IBM, the company will work until the end of the year, and then stop researching new technological processes.
Who else postponed the development of
Another organization that has postponed the release of chips on a new technological process, was Intel. IT giant moves scale release of 10-nm circuits for two years. This time, the launch of sales of the first 10-nm products moved at the end of 2019.
According to representatives companies, the reason for the delay is low yield of suitable processors. There are opinion , that the problem is related to the technology of multi-patterning and the use of cobalt.
Production volumes are growing more slowly than planned. Technically, Intel already supplies 10-nm chips in small batches. For example, the first Core i3-8121U - 10-nm processors of the Cannon Lake family - already work in Lenovo notebooks. However, mass production of chips can not be said.
/photo Intel Free Press CC
Other market players are also in no hurry to put the development of new technical processes on the flow. In UMC, until stopped on a 14-nm process technology, and in Samsung promise 7-nm, but also not earlier than 2019.
The main reasons are
As we have already said, the high cost of the transition is one of the reasons why GlobalFoundries has curtailed its projects. And according to opinion Gartner, it is basic. According to analysts, the cost of developing 7-nm technology is about 270 million dollars.
The equipment for EUV lithography , nanolists, exotic materials like ruthenium - all these things are not cheap, but without some of them it is already difficult to do. To recoup investment in production, you need to release on 150 million chips a year. Therefore, the implementation of 7-, 5-, 3-, and 2-nm processes may prove to be commercially unprofitable.
In this case, even if the chip is created, the "exhaust" performance is not always significant. For example, in Qualcomm consider , that the 5-nm process will not surpass 7-nm in performance, and investing in its development will have several billion dollars.
The second reason is the high probability of error and its price. For example, delays in the supply of Intel's 10-nm process technology " flew into a pretty penny "One of the IT giants with a capitalization of 20 billion dollars.
Residents HN isolated and other reasons for slowing progress in the semiconductor industry. For example, one of the users believes that a decrease in crystal size has a bad effect on its cooling. Therefore, companies are trying to invest in the development of more energy efficient technologies, rather than reducing the size of the crystals (this is the path that went to GlobalFoundries).
Why updates still need
Representatives of the industry consider , that it is still necessary to reduce the resolution. This will ensure the effective operation of AI, MO, 5G-networks and IoT systems. By to the preliminary calculations developers from TSMC, 7-nm process technology will improve performance by 30% and halve the power consumption of the processor (compared to 10-nm).
However, David Hemker (David Hemker), senior VP at Lam Research, a manufacturer of semiconductors, emphasizes that the industry will need new solutions to cope with the growing complexity of production processes.
/photo Fritzchens Fritz PD
So far EUV lithography generates too many defects in the production of chips . But if we continue to improve the technology, it is should be reduced to time and costs for the development of new technical processes.
Despite all the complexities of production, some industry representatives already make forecasts for processes less than 5-nm and talk about the timing of the release of such chips. So, for example, in TSMC - also engaged in the production of semiconductors - already they are making plans for on the development of 3- and 2-nm process technology. And the research center Imec together with the company Cadence Design Systems even have developed test samples of microprocessors using 3-nm technology.
Therefore, in the future we will definitely see the application of these technologies, only this moment may come a bit later than originally thought.
P.S. Additional materials from the First blog about the corporate IaaS:
New functionality in VMware vSphere ???r3r3272.
Examples of using NetApp storage in various business areas
Testing of the disk system in the cloud
P.P.S. Related articles from our blog on Habré:
The Japanese presented a prototype processor for the exaflop supercomputer
IBM introduced the world's first 5-nanometer chip
Why did computer chips become older "faster" and what to do with it
It may be interesting