The move may also suit Intel in the short- to medium term as it has found it difficult to compete in terms of technology with TSMC and Samsung at the leading-edge of manufacturing processes. Automotive chip requirements are more diverse and frequently behind the leading-edge.
Gelsinger announced the development after attending a multi-company supply chain summit with President Biden and said the move could produce results within six to nine months.
“We’re hoping that some of these things can be alleviated, not requiring a three- or four-year factory build, but maybe six months of new products being certified on some of our existing processes,” Reuters reported Gelsinger saying. “We’ve begun those engagements already with some of the key components suppliers,” he also said, according to the report.
Intel already has some experience as an automotive supplier through its acquisition of Mobileye Vision Technology Ltd. for $15 billion in 2017. However, the latest Mobileye device, the EyeQ5, is implemented in 7nm FinFET process with manufacturing believed to be outsourced to TSMC. The EyeQ6, scheduled for release in 2023, is also slated for 7nm FinFET production suggesting that Intel may be planning to begin production in-house with that generation.
Next: Responding to shortfall
President Biden and Gelsinger are responding to a chip supply shortage that began in 2020 with the automotive sector but which is now rippling across the entire electronics industry. The shortage has been ascribed to a mix of the Covid-19 pandemic and a US blacklisting of Chinese telecommunications supplier Huawei, which both caused disruption to markets that had become habituated to just-in-time delivery of components.
However, market researchers suggest that 2021 chip supplies will hit a record in terms of shipments (see Despite shortages chip supplies have never been more abundant) suggesting that the problem lies with a rapid surge in demand, which could not be satisfied by semiconductor manufacturing that was running at close to capacity.
It can take a couple of years after the first spending commitments for chip manufacturing capacity to come on-stream.
Volkswagen, the world’s largest automobile maker announced that it faced “massively restricted” supplies of semiconductors in December 2020 (see Volkswagen faces massive chip shortages). Since then most automotive makers have been forced to slow down or close down production lines because they cannot get all the chips they need.
Intel recently announced that – along with plans to catch up technically with leading-edge production – it would re-enter foundry manufacturing. Moving designs on to Intel processes running at fabs in Ireland or Israel could kick-start that initiative.
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Despite shortages chip supplies have never been more abundant