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Intel Briefing: Tri-Gate Technology and Atom SoC

Intel Briefing: Tri-Gate Technology and Atom SoC
by Daniel Nenni on 07-17-2011 at 3:00 pm

Sorry to disappoint but my 2 hours at the Intel RNB was a very positive experience. It is much more fun writing negative things about industry leaders because I enjoy the resulting hate mail and personal attacks, but the candor and transparency of the Intel guys won me over. They even asked ME questions which was a bit telling. I also picked up a very nice Intel hat. I now blog for hats!

The first meeting was with Jon Carvill, Mobile Media guy at Intel. Before that he was VP of Communications at GlobalFoundries and Head of PR at AMD/ATI. I worked with Jon at GlobalFoundries, he’s a stand-up guy, very technical, and almost 7 feet tall. I don’t take pictures with Jon since he makes me look like a dwarf.

The second meeting was with Rob Willoner, a long time manufacturing guy at Intel and Radoslaw Walczyk, an Intel PR guy. You can find Rob’s Tri-Gate presentation HERE. In these types of meetings you watch the face of the PR guy when the technology guy answers questions. If the PR guy flinches you are getting good information!

The questions they asked me were about 40nm yield and 28nm ramping (I will blog on that next week). It was interesting that the conversation went there.

The questions I asked them were about Tri-Gate and Atom in regards to the foundry business. I’m a foundry guy and would really like to see Intel get serious and “raise the foundry competitiion bar”. With that said, here are my comments on Intel in the foundry business, Tri-Gate technology, and Atom SoCs:


  • Intel is definitely serious about the foundry business. Not only to promote Atom as an SoC block, but also to fill 22nm capacity. Intel will start the foundry business with FPGAs from Achronix and Tabula. FPGA’s have very regular structures which are easier to tune a process for. FPGA performance is also important and Intel is certainly the expert on high speed silicon.
  • Intel will not manufacture ARM designs. This kills the “Apple to foundry at Intel” rumors. The Apple A6 processor will be fabbed at TSMC 20nm HKMG using ultra low power 3D IC technology, believe it! This also makes Intel a “boutique” foundry like Samsung and not an “open” foundry like TSMC. That position could change of course but probably not in my life time.
  • Intel still has a lot to learn about a pure-play foundry design ecosystem. None of my design questions were answered and it was because they just did not know. Example: Intel does not acknowledge the term restricted design rules (RDRs) since microprocessor design rules have always been restricted. TSMC just went to RDRs in 28nm as a result of the 40nm ramping problem. More about that next blog.
  • The Ivy Bridge processor is not in production at 22nm. It’s a test vehicle only and will not be in production until sometime next year. 22nm Atom SoC production will be in 2013. The Intel PR guy flinched at this one. 😉 To be fair, Intel production levels are much higher than most so the Intel internal definition of production is not the same as the Intel PR definition.
  • What is the difference between Tri-Gate and FinFet? Tri-Gate is a type of FinFet, FinFet is more of a global term. Intel Tri-gate work started in 2002 and the current implementation uses standard semiconductor manufacturing equipment with a few extra steps. More on Tri-Gate HERE.
  • Tri-Gate manufacturing costs are +2-3%? That would be wafer manufacturing costs, which does not include mask and other prep costs. 2-3% is definitely a PR spin thing and not the actual cost delta.

    Clearly this is just scratching the surface of the briefing so if you have questions post them in the comment section and they will get answered. You have to be a registered SemiWiki user to read/write comments, when you register put “iPad2” in the referral section and you might even win one.

    By the way, when I’m not in Taiwan, I’m on the Iron Horse Trail with my new walking partner Max. Max is a six month old Great Dane and he already weighs 110 lbs. I like how Max’s big head makes mine look small. Peet’s Coffee in Danville is our favorite destination so stop on by and say “Hi”. Be nice though or Max will slobber on you.

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