Intel renames manufacturing nodes, tips RibbonFET, PowerVia

July 27, 2021 // By Peter Clarke
Intel renames manufacturing nodes, tips RibbonFET, PowerVia
Intel Corp. has staged a webcast repositioning of its technology as it seeks to get back on to the front-foot under recently appointed CEO Pat Gelsinger.

In an online presentation called 'Intel Accelerated,' the major element was renaming its future manufacturing process nodes and a new transistor architecture due for introduction at the 2nm stage. The transistor format, a refinement of the FinFET, is called RibbonFET and is accompanied by backside power supply named PowerVia.

The renaming starts with what was 10nm FinFET super enhanced becoming 7 and what was 7nm becomes 4 and so on. This makes Intel appear to be in a closer competitive position with rival semiconductor companies TSMC and Samsung, after Intel had stalled for several years while trying to achieve reasonable yields at 10nm.

Whether the naming convention is accurate is moot as the node names for chip manufacturing companies long ago ceased to refer to any direct minimum dimension in their naming conventions. There has been discussion for many years that Intel's 10nm was roughly equivalent to 7nm from TSMC.

Production on 7 is due in 1Q22; production on 4 some time in 2023; the 3 process is timetabled to begin before the end of 2023. Intel's 20A process is expected to ramp in 2024 and will be the point at which RibbonFET and PowerVia will be introduced fully into production. Gelsinger made the point that elements of new transistor architecture will be investigated at earlier nodes and EUV will be deployed across increasing numbers of metal layers as Intel makes its way along the roadmap.

The A in the 20A and an 18A process that follows stands for angstrom, which is equivalent to 0.1nm. The Intel 18A process is already in development for early 2025 with refinements to RibbonFET that will deliver another increase in transistor performance.

However, the rebooting of Intel by way of node renaming is for now only a marketing exercise. Intel has to execute on the roadmap if it is to fulfil Gelsinger's promise of getting the company back on top as a leading semiconductor company. And Intel's struggles have resulted in the near-term measure of it requiring the support of foundry rival TSMC over several production nodes (see Report: Apple, Intel are first to adopt TSMC's 3nm process).

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