Intel delays its next generation chips

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By Larry Banks

Chip giant Intel has apparently delayed major factory changes that would have made its next generation of chips faster and more powerful. The company says it hi problems upgrading the fabrication systems so they could manufacture that components that are only 10 nm (nanometres) in size. Intel said that it would instead boost processor performance by other methods.

Intel delays next-gen 10 nm chips

The news comes just days after the IBM said it solved problems related to making smaller components. The Intel delay was first revealed by boss Brian Krzanich in a conference call with the press and financial analysts.

“The lithography is continuing to get more difficult as you try and scale, and the number of multi-pattern steps you have to do is increasing”, he said.

With the current generation of Intel chips, the smallest parts are 14 nm in size. But Intel said they would be phase out in favour of 10 nm chips later in 2016. Now however, it said that 10 nm chips won’t appear before 2017, a delay of between 6 and 9 months. The delay will cause an upset to the company’s “tick, tock” system it’s been using to improve processor power for years. This process means that major changes are made to chip layouts (tick) with refinements to the fabrication (tick) with each generation.

Krzanich didn’t elaborate further what would lead to improved performance of its 14 nm chips it will introduce instead of newer 10 nm components.

The admission by Intel could mean that Moore’s law (which says processor power roughly doubles every year) could be starting to come to an end.

When it was first proposed by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore 50 years ago, it said that chip power could double every 12 months.

This improvement typically comes by shrinking the billions of transistors on a chip. Since then, the law’s estimate about how long it takes to refine production has stretch considerably. Now, improvements are expected every 24 months or so.

Last week, IBM said it had found ways to produce chips with 7 nm components. But it said the techniques had only been shown to work in the lab and not in large-sale chip fabrication plants.


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