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Archive for January, 2022

Intel new fabs in Ohio; stacked forksheet transistor; Nvidia-Arm updates; low power devices

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

The USA was definitely the center of the action last week with major announcements from Intel and Microsoft – spanning tech areas as diverse as fab construction and game development. Let’s start with Intel, while the Microsoft news can be found in our Acquisition paragraph.

Intel to build two new fabs in Ohio

Intel has announced plans for an initial investment of more than $20 billion in the construction of two new chip factories in Licking County, near Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing capacity for Intel’s own products, these new factories will support the company’s new foundry business. The initial phase of the project is expected to create 3,000 Intel jobs and 7,000 construction jobs, and to support tens of thousands of additional local long-term jobs across the ecosystem. Spanning nearly 1,000 acres, the site can accommodate a total of eight fabs – as well as support operations and ecosystem partners. Intel stated that the total investment in the site could grow to as much as $100 billion over the next decade, making it one of the largest semiconductor manufacturing sites in the world. “The scope and pace of Intel’s expansion in Ohio, however, will depend heavily on funding from the CHIPS Act,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, Intel senior vice president of Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Operations. Construction is expected to begin late in 2022, while production is expected to come online in 2025. As part of Intel’s announcement, Air Products, Applied Materials, LAM Research and Ultra Clean Technology have indicated plans to establish a physical presence in the region. “The Columbus Dispatch” daily newspaper has a story on how Ohio won the bid by Intel. The article quotes a letter from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger to the Ohio governor, saying “Ultimately, we hope to establish the largest semiconductor manufacturing site on the planet.”

A rendering of the two new Intel fabs in Licking County, Ohio. Credit: Intel Corporation

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Vertical FET; emerging memories; TSMC’s capex; DAC figures

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Later this year the industry will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of AlexNet, widely considered the starting point of the current neural network boom. But another celebration took place recently: the fiftieth anniversary of the microprocessor. The magazine “IEEE Micro” has devoted a special issue to this event, hosting – among others – an article from Federico Faggin telling the story of the Intel 4004. EETimes also turned fifty recently, and veteran semiconductor analyst Malcolm Penn celebrated this anniversary by contributing three articles on the history of Silicon Valley: here are Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Let’s now quickly catch up on some of the news updates from December and early January.

IBM and Samsung develop the vertical FET

IBM and Samsung Electronics have jointly announced a new vertical transistor architecture called VTFET that promises further scaling beyond nanosheet. As explained in this blog post, vertically orienting the current flow removes the horizontal constraints to gates, spaces and contacts dimensions. In this way, the Contacted Gate Pitch can be scaled while maintaining healthy size for all these features. Specifically, the VTFET allows to use larger source/drain contacts to increase the current on the device; the gate length can be selected to optimize device drive current and leakage; and the spacer thickness can be independently optimized for lower capacitance. Another key VTFET feature is the ability to use shallow trench isolation for adjacent circuits, to achieve a Zero-Diffusion Break (ZDB) isolation, with no loss of active-gate pitches. By comparison, the density of conventional lateral-transport FET circuitry is affected by double or single-diffusion breaks required for circuit isolation, which affects the ability to further shrink.

Credit: IBM

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2021 Year in Review

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Let’s start 2022 by quickly recapping some of the major events and trends of 2021, which was another year of the so-called ‘silicon renaissance’ era – and, unfortunately, another year of Covid-19 pandemic.

Record numbers, chip shortage, new fabs, geopolitical tensions

As we all know, the semiconductor industry and its ecosystem thrived in 2021, due to strong demand from multiple end markets. In fact, the demand exceeded the global fab capacity, generating a severe chip shortage that especially hit carmakers. According to market research firm Omdia, in the third quarter of 2021 the semiconductor market surpassed $150 billion. Record numbers were also reported by the Electronic System Design Alliance for the EDA industry, and by Semi for the equipment and material market. As for this latter area, 2021 was an exciting year because of several announcements related to the planned construction of new fabs, such as Samsung’s plant in Texas or Intel’s factories in Arizona. Unfortunately, geopolitical tensions also increased in 2021, with China vowing to pursue reunification with Taiwan.

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