Intel Announces its 18A Node is Ahead of Schedule

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Intel has been very public about its future plans ever since Pat Gelsinger returned as CEO in 2021. Gelsinger has mapped out a strategy dubbed IDM 2.0 that he hopes will return Intel to its former role as a global leader in silicon fabrication. To achieve this goal it’s announced parallel work on multiple advanced nodes at its various fabs. At the company’s recent launch of a new facility in Oregon, CEO Gelsinger delivered some unexpected good news about its progress on its most advanced node. He said the company’s flagship process, dubbed 18A, was a full  six months ahead of schedule. The 18A node was originally due to arrive in 2025, but that’s now been moved up to late 2024.

The news seems designed to quiet critics who think the company might once again be unable to advance to new nodes over time. As you might recall, it stalled out from 2015 to 2019 trying to move from 14nm to 10nm. It finally overcame its challenges and has transitioned to 10nm on desktop with Alder Lake, though Intel calls that process Intel 7.

As reported by Cnet, one analyst noted that Gelsinger must be supremely confident in 18A’s progress to make an announcement about it this early in its life cycle. Pet Gelsinger himself showed off an 18A wafer of SRAM at the company’s investor meeting in February as proof of its progress.

The 18A process is at the very end of a “five nodes in four years” strategy the company has adopted. This process began with Intel 7, which was used for its Alder Lake CPUs. It’s effectively a 10nm node and will also be used for Raptor Lake. After that comes Intel 4, which was previously a 7nm process. Its 2023 tile-based Meteor Lake CPUs will use this process. Next up is Intel 3, which is a refinement of Intel 4. Beyond that things really start to change. Intel’s 20A is the first chip in the company’s Ångström lineup, and introduces two new technologies: RibbonFET and PowerVia. This will mark the company’s official transition away from FinFET, and we wrote about both of these technologies here. Finally, we come to 18A, which is a refinement of 20A. For now, that’s as far as Intel’s roadmap extends.

The announcement came as Intel pulled the wraps off a new expansion of its D1x fab in Hillsboro, OR. It has renamed the facility to the Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres. Gordon Moore is the co-founder of Intel and the author of the famous “Moore’s Law,” which he delivered all the way back in 1965. As you might recall, he predicted that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double every two years. Over the past few years there’s been a lot of discussion about when we’ll see the end of Moore’s Law, especially now that companies are moving to chiplet-based designs.

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