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Intel Reworks FinFETs for IoT

May 16, 2017

Author: David Kanter

Intel develops the world’s most advanced process technologies for high-performance digital logic by pioneering techniques such as strained silicon and FinFETs. It usually optimizes its manufacturing for PC and server processors, which emphasize high clock speeds and transistor density. After retreating from the smartphone market, CEO Brian Krzanich is determined to catch the semiconductor industry’s next growth wave: the Internet of Things (IoT). To support the unique needs of IoT devices, the company has developed a new 22nm manufacturing process it calls 22FFL.

Most of Intel’s current IoT processors are simply repurposed versions of chips developed for other markets. But when used in embedded and IoT applications, these products must compete against purpose-built embedded processors from NXP and other vendors. The 22FFL process takes advantage of the existing 22nm and 14nm processes, but it’s designed specifically for mobile and IoT devices. The metal interconnect layers are optimized to avoid complicated design rules, increasing density and enabling third-party intellectual property (IP). At the same time, Intel adapted the more advanced 14nm FinFET transistors, but it tuned the technology to reduce leakage current. This approach optimizes always-on circuitry for connected IoT devices.

The company has released an initial version of the 22FFL platform development kit (PDK) to potential customers and plans to offer a final version in 2Q17. Although the process should be ready for production in 4Q17, the time line for initial 22FFL products is unclear. On the basis of Intel’s disclosures, we expect to see internal designs that focus on high-performance IoT applications in 2018. The company may offer the technology as part of its foundry services, but any third-party customers will likely be at least a few quarters behind the internal products.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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