Electronic Design Automation

10 takeaways from Intel Direct Connect 2024

21 February 2024
A piece of semiconductor manufacturing equipment inside an Intel chip manufacturing fab. Intel Foundry has announced new deals with Arm, Microsoft and possibly Tower Semiconductor as well as new EDA deals. Source: Intel

Intel held its inaugural event for the debut of Intel Foundry, called Intel Direct Connect, where the company discussed all the aspects of its process technology roadmap into the latter part of the decade including its 14A leading-edge node.

Intel Foundry, which replaces the previous moniker of Intel Foundry Services, is aimed at becoming the second overall global semiconductor manufacturing foundry by 2030, according to Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. Part of this goal is to deliver five process nodes in four years, something Gelsinger said is on track to be completed.

In addition to announcing its process technology roadmap that includes the 14A state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing process, Intel unveiled more design wins, partnerships and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo unveiled some news regarding the CHIPS and Science Act.

Intel’s CHIPS Act grant

During the keynote for Intel Direct Connect, Gelsinger announced that Intel’s grant from the CHIPS Act is coming “soon” something Raimondo affirmed as well when she appeared at the event.

The CHIPS and Science Act is America’s funding and incentive program to bring semiconductor manufacturing back domestically to shore up supply chain resiliency and rebalance where chipmaking is accomplished globally.

While there were no specifics given, a report from Bloomberg said that the grant, which will include loans and grants, would be around $10 billion.

Arm partnership

Maybe one of the more interesting aspects was the new partnership between microprocessor vendor Arm and microprocess vendor Intel.

“We are a bit of strange bedfellows,” said Rene Haas during Intel Direct Connect. “The technology is industry leading, industry changing, and we need to be a part of it.”

The partnership will involve co-investments, joint programs and providing shuttles and intellectual property (IP) at scale for Intel Foundry, said Stu Pann, senior vice president and general manager of Intel Foundry.

Arm debuted at Intel Direct Connect its new product line for Neoverse, blueprints or IP that can be used in AI data centers as well as many other sectors. Intel and Arm will be collaborating to provide this technology for Intel Foundry.

Hardy manufacturing

Raimondo and Gelsinger have both said in the past that they want to grow U.S. semiconductor manufacturing back to a prominent position as it was in the past. Something on the realm of a third of all global manufacturing is the goal that was reiterated during Intel Direct Connect.

A second CHIPS Act?

Gelsinger, during his chat with Raimondo, asked if another CHIPS Act will be necessary to continue the semiconductor supply chain diversification and reach this goal of one-third of global manufacturing.

Raimondo did not confirm this but said that once the original CHIPS Act funding is distributed, it is likely that something more may be needed to continue the momentum gained already from the law.

More funding coming

Finally, Raimondo said that more CHIPS Act funding, outside of what’s coming for Intel, is in store and announcements will steadily roll out this year.

Microsoft deal

Microsoft will be the latest Intel Foundry customer that will build a new semiconductor on Intel’s most advanced 18A process node.

$15 billion and counting

Pann said that Intel has more than $15 billion in foundry business coming.

New Tower deal

Pann also announced that Intel Foundry is working with Tower Semiconductor on a new deal that may possibly involve 40 nanometer mature process node.

Previously, Intel originally set plans to purchase Tower, however, due to government regulations the deal didn’t happen. Instead, Intel and Tower formed a different agreement where it will provide 300 mm foundry services to Tower customers.

Student access

Intel announced a partnership with the University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley to provide student access to run test chips through its state-of-the-art factories, specifically its 18A process node.

Tool validation

Synopsys, Cadence, Siemens and Ansys, the major players in the electronic design automation (EDA) space, have all announced validated tools, design flows and IP portfolios for Intel Foundry’s 18A process nodes. They also affirmed EDA and IP enablement across the other Intel process nodes.

This will offer what it claims is the first foundry to provide a backside power solution.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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