In an interview with EE Times, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich talked about the so-called tick-tock-tock decision for 10nm as well as the probability of implementing EUV on the 7nm node. Krzanich notes the decision to do three generations on the 10nm node came because the last two process generations were closer to two-and-a-half years than two years long.
He adds it was a hard decision to make, but explains it comes down to pretty simple facts: we should have gotten extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography several generations ago but this hasn't materialized yet, and with the number of multi-patterning steps going up and the complexity of design the likelihood is it will take two and a half years for the next process node to arrive.
Krzanich is unwilling to commit to a two-and-a-half years cadence forever, there's a chance that the implementation of the long-delayed EUV at 7nm can bring the schedule back to two years. So far it's still too early to give a firm confirmation about when EUV will be implemented as we're talking several years out. However, within a year or so it should become clear whether EUV will be a possibility for 7nm or not:
EET: GlobalFoundries said at Semicon West they are designing their 7nm process for immersion and hope to insert EUV later. What’s your confidence level in having EUV at 7nm?
Krzanich: You are talking 4-5 years out, so confidence is always risky. We have a back up. We always do. You can continue to use immersion. The question is the amount of multi-patterning and the relative cost of that, and that drives the amount of scaling needed to offset the costs. That’s part of how we kept our cost curve on the same slope where others have struggled. We pushed harder on scaling factors.
We defined the scaling needed for 10nm knowing we will not have EUV, and knowing we will have to have higher scaling. It will take another year or so of effort to know if we will have EUV for 7nm or not.
On a related note, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed the company's foundry business is doing well and that they have new customers, which can not be named yet due to confidentiality agreements:
EET: How is the foundry initiative going now that Sunit Rikhi who managed the program has left?
Krzanich: He retired, people do that. The foundry business continues to go well. We have new customers. Altera is a customer. A lot of customers we are working with don’t want to announce until they are ready to go to market because they have relationships with other foundries. They want to stay quiet. But we are out getting new customers all the time.