In an online event Gelsinger also said the company intended to build up Intel Foundry Services to be a major provider of chip manufacturing capacity in the US and Europe and provide chips to customers globally. Gelsinger also said the company would continue to use foundry manufacturing for some of its requirements.
As part of a broad set of measures under the banner IDM 2.0 Gelsinger also announced plans for research collaboration with IBM.
Intel has provided foundry services in the past but proved insufficiently flexible or advanced for some customers and the initiative ran out of steam. FPGA developer Achronix Semiconductor started its manufacturing journey with Intel's 14nm FinFET process but moved to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. when it needed to prove embedded-FPGA cores for license.
In previous decades Intel was the self-sufficient technology leader in chip manufacturing and IBM was considered a rival. As IBM gradually withdrew from chip manufacturing it engaged with Motorola, Samsung, AMD, Globalfoundries in R&D and was a pioneer of fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) manufacturing process.
One of the reasons for the appointment of Gelsinger, a former CTO of Intel, as CEO was because the company hit probems with its manufacturing roadmap, which has seen Intel fall behind both TSMC and Samsung.
In his live event Gelsinger said the 7nm process technology is now progressing well and the 'Meteor Lake' "tile" is expected to tape out in 2Q21.
It is notable that Gelsinger used the word tile rather than die. This is likely because Intel is looking forward to a style of semiconductor component manufacturing where different functional tiles potentially made in different manufacturing processes are brought together and the "chip" made up from chiplet tiles.
"We are setting a course for a new era of innovation and product leadership at Intel," said Gelsinger. "Intel is the only company with the depth and breadth of software, silicon and platforms, packaging, and process with at-scale manufacturing customers can depend on for their next-generation innovations. IDM 2.0 is an elegant strategy that only Intel can deliver – and it's a winning formula. We will use it to design the best products and manufacture them in the best way possible for every category we compete in."
Foundries currently manufacture Intel chips ranging from communications, through graphics and chipsets. This is partly for legacy reasons as Intel has acquired fabless startups but also more recently because of problems with Intel's own manufacturing.
Even as Intel puts in place its 7nm manufacturing process and builds leading-edge fabs in Arizona Gelsinger said he expects engagement with third-party foundries to grow and to include manufacturing for a range of modular tiles on advanced process technologies, including products at the core of Intel's computing offerings for both client and data center segments beginning in 2023.
This will provide the increased flexibility and scale needed to optimize Intel's roadmaps for cost, performance, schedule and supply, giving the company a unique competitive advantage.
Intel Foundry Services is becoming a stand-alone business unit led by Randhir Thakur. Gelsinger talked of Europe-based foundry capacity but it remains unclear whether Intel intends to use its fab in Leixlip, Ireland or Kiryat Gat, Isreal, or both to fulfil that promise.
Intel Foundry will offer a broad range of IP including x86 cores, ARM cores and RISC-V cores from SiFive. The construction of two wafer fabs on Intel's Ocotillo campus in Arizona will be used to support Intel's products and to provide capacity for foundry manufacturing. The two fabs represents a $20 billion investment and is expected to create 3,000 jobs directly and approximately 15,000 direct and indirect jobs in the long term. Gelsinger said he plans to announce the next phase of capacity expansions in the US, Europe and other global locations within the year.
Related links and articles:
- Gelsinger must take the long view to re-engineer Intel
- Reports: TSMC planning for six wafer fabs in Arizona
- Reports: Europe wants Samsung and TSMC to enter fab project
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