Intel announced Monday that it has been awarded a contract for foundry services as part of a Department of Defense program to support advanced semiconductor manufacturing in the United States.
While Intel’s share of the estimated $ 100 million price tag has not been disclosed, it is certain that it will boost Intel’s new foundry services division that was announced in March as part of the company IDM 2.0 strategy. The company will work alongside IBM and electronics design automation companies Cadence and Synopsys. The program, known as “Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes — Commercial or RAMP-C,” aims to expand the Pentagon’s access to reliable, secure and reliable chips from sub-7nm process technology.
“One of the most profound lessons from the past year is the strategic importance of semiconductors and the value for the United States of having a strong domestic semiconductor industry,” said the CEO of Intel, Pat Gelsinger. “When we launched Intel Foundry Services earlier this year, we were excited to have the opportunity to make our capabilities available to a wider range of partners, including within the U.S. government, and that is great to see this potential being realized through programs like RAMP. -VS. “
The EUV obstacle
So far, only a handful of companies have successfully incorporated the technologies needed to etch increasingly smaller features in silicon, and TSMC’s mastery of Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV) has helped propel it into leading the pack. The Taiwanese company and South Korea-based Samsung are the only two semiconductor companies currently using EUV to produce logic chips on a commercial scale, and TSMC dominates at the cutting edge, making over 80% of the chips. nm in the world.
Intel has struggled to keep pace with its Asian rivals. It has yet to introduce UVU in the manufacture of its commercial products, and it will not widely adopt the technology until the second half of 2023. Meanwhile, TSMC announced last year that it has 50 percent of all EUV machines installed and had manufactured 60 percent of all wafers produced using this technology, giving the company a significant head start. This type of manufacturing advance also provides certain advantages for future process development – progress to the next node often depends on resolving issues that appear at the current node.
While Intel is not expected to introduce a competitor to TSMC’s 7nm node – which was introduced in 2018 – until early next year, the company hopes to start by 2024 ramping up production of its “20A process. “, which should be broadly equivalent to TSMC’s 2nm node which should be in full production by then.
Shortage of domestic manufacturers
As TSMC got ahead, the Pentagon found itself without a state-of-the-art semiconductor maker. IBM sold its microelectronics division to GlobalFoundries in 2014, and since then GlobalFoundries has ditched the vanguard for more mature nodes. Intel remains the only contender, and the Pentagon is clearly hoping this award will help keep it in the game.
“The United States currently has no land-based access to foundry technology capable of meeting the long-term advanced microelectronics manufacturing needs of the Department of Defense,” the program’s solutions request said.
Once completed, the RAMP-C program plans to award a total of $ 320 million. While important, it’s a small part of what semiconductor companies need to stay on the cutting edge of technology. Intel has announced it will spend $ 20 billion on two factories in Arizona alone, and TSMC has said it will spend $ 100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity.