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2024 Big Race is TSMC N2 and Intel 18A

2024 Big Race is TSMC N2 and Intel 18A
by Daniel Nenni on 01-01-2024 at 6:00 am

There is a lot being said about Intel getting the lead back from TSMC with their 18A process. Like anything else in the semiconductor industry there is much more here than meets the eye, absolutely.

From the surface, TSMC has a massive ecosystem and is in the lead as far as process technologies and foundry design starts but Intel is not to be ignored. Remember Intel first brought us High Metal Gate, FinFETs, and many more innovative semiconductor technologies. One of which is backside power delivery. BPD can certainly bring Intel back to the forefront of semiconductor manufacturing but we really need to take it in proper context.

Backside power delivery refers to a design approach where power is delivered to the back side of the chip rather than the front side. This approach can have advantages in terms of thermal management and overall performance. It allows for more efficient heat dissipation and can contribute to better power delivery to the chip components. It’s all about optimizing the layout and design for improved functionality and heat distribution.

18A Intel PowerVia backside power delivery TSMC N2

Backside power delivery has been talked about in conferences but Intel will be the first company to bring it to life. Hats off to Intel for yet another incredible step in keeping Gordon Moore’s vision alive.

SemiWiki blogger Scotten Jones talks about it in more detail in his article: VLSI Symposium – Intel PowerVia Technology. You can see other new Intel technology revelations here on SemiWiki: https://semiwiki.com/category/semiconductor-manufacturers/intel/.

TSMC and Samsung of course will follow Intel into backside power delivery a year or two behind. The one benefit that TSMC has is the sheer force of customers that intimately collaborate with TSMC ensuring their success, not unlike TSMC’s packaging success.

Today any comparison between intel and TSMC is like comparing an Apple to a Pineapple, they are two completely different things.

Right now Intel makes CPU chiplets internally and outsources supporting chiplets and GPUs to TSMC at N5-N3. I have not heard about an Intel TMSC N2 contract as of yet. Hopefully Intel can make all of their chiplets internally at 18A and below.

Unfortunately, Intel does not have a whale of a customer for the Intel foundry group as of yet. Making chiplets internally does not compare to TSMC manufacturing complex SoCs for whales like Apple and Qualcomm. If you want to break up the BPD competition into two parts: Internal chiplets and complex SoCs that is fine. But to say Intel is a process ahead of anybody while only doing chiplets is disingenuous, my opinion.

Now, if you want to do a chiplet comparison let’s take a close look at Intel versus AMD or Nvidia as they are doing chiplets on TSMC N3 and N2. Intel might actually win this one, we shall see. But to me if you want the foundry process lead you need to be able to make customer chips in high volume.

Next you have to consider what does the process lead mean if you don’t have customer support. It will be one of those ribbons on the wall, one of those notes on Wikipedia, or a press release like IBM does. It will not be the billions of dollars of HVM revenue that everybody looks for. Intel needs to land some fabless semiconductor whales to stand next to TSMC, otherwise they will stand next to Samsung or IBM.

Personally I think Intel has a real shot at this one. If their version of BPD can be done by customers in a reasonable amount of time it could be the start of a new foundry revenue stream versus the NOT TSMC business I have mentioned before. We will know in a year or two but for me this is the exciting foundry competition we have all been waiting for so thank you Intel and welcome back!

There is an interesting discussion in the SemiWiki forum on TSMC versus Intel in regards to risk taking. I hope to see you there:

Intel vs TSMC in Risk Taking

Also Read:

IEDM Buzz – Intel Previews New Vertical Transistor Scaling Innovation

Intel Ushers a New Era of Advanced Packaging with Glass Substrates

How Intel, Samsung and TSMC are Changing the World

Intel Enables the Multi-Die Revolution with Packaging Innovation

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