Intel reveals roadmap to 5nm process

Intel has unveiled a roadmap taking its production process all the way down to 5nm, with chips based on a 10nm process arriving by 2015.

According to the company, it plans to shrink its fabrication process from the current 22nm used for its newest Ivy Bridge processors to 14nm next year, keeping with the “tick-tock” schedule of a new architecture followed by a die shrink.

The company said 10nm plants would come online in 2015 and that it was already working on 7nm and then 5nm technologies.

The process used in manufacturing chips has a big impact on the size and performance of the final processor, with smaller processes also meaning manufacturers can get more out of each silicon wafer.

According to slides released at Intel’s annual Investor Meeting in Santa Clara, the company is already researching the lithography, materials and interconnects for the 10nm and below processes.


Boasting that the company was able to push designs further and faster than rivals because of $2bn a year spent on research and 1,900 PhD graduates working on future products, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said the 14nm process would be delivered “on time and on target” next year.

The company said it was already building sites for the 14nm production at three locations – in Oregon, Arizona and Ireland.


Focus on mobile

According to Otellini, Intel was also stepping up research on mobile and tablet chips in a bid to stave off competition from ARM, which dominates those markets.

It hopes to close the gap between the technology used to make mobile chips and that used for PC processors, he said. “We’re shipping now at 32nm and next year you will see phone and tablet chips shipping at 22nm and the year after that you’ll see 14nm,” he said.

“So essentially it’s about moving our phone chips to catch up from the trailing edge of our processes to the leading edge of our processes over the space of three years.”

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