Intel Reportedly Outsourcing 14nm Chipset Production to TSMC

/ 5 years ago

Intel TSMC

Intel Production Woes May Force Tough Choice

Just 5 years ago, Intel was the undisputed leader in silicon production. With the best in-house fabs, the company was at the forefront of the latest production nodes. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the Intel frontrunner. Chipzilla has arguably fallen behind of some its competitors in the industry. According to a new report, Intel is planning to outsource some production to competing fabs. What many of us thought unthinkable may now be a reality. To be clear, it is unclear when this deal will be inked and production start rolling at this point.

The new report points to problems in keeping up with 14nm production. The real crux of the problem is due to the transition to 10nm. As part of their PAO plan, fabs leapfrog each other onto new process nodes. Some fabs may be on say 22nm, others on the main 14nm node and some on the testing 10nm node. With 10nm hung up, new chips aren’t moving away from 14nm. This is leading to more strain on 14nm production. Furthermore, along with the planned move away from older nodes, 14nm is facing more strain as chipsets on 22nm move to 14nm as well.

Unclear Which TSMC Process Intel May Use

As a result of this shortage, Intel has no option but to find ways to free up capacity somehow. Due to the importance of nodes to CPUs,  the company will reserve 14nm production for the CPUs. This leaves the chipsets which are arguably less important to manufactured elsewhere. TSMC is the logical choice as they are the go-to option for third-party production. While chipsets on say 16nm may not be ideal, it is probably better than 22nm. It also gives Intel the opportunity to move 22nm fabs to either 14nm or 10nm. The chipsets in question are the H310 as well as other 300 series chipsets.

With these troubles out in the open, the real question is how Intel will handle their fabs going forward. Due to the woes with 10nm, Intel CPUs have been stuck on 14nm for a very long time. Perhaps it may be time for Intel to consider using other fabs more often. As AMD once found out, while an in-house fab offers more overall flexibility, it comes with heavy risks, especially if you plan heavily on a specific timeline. As AMD is finding out with Globalfoundries and TSMC, having multiple fab partners may be the way to go.

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