Why Intel 3 Represents an Intel Foundry Milestone ?

At the 2024 IEEE Symposium on VLSI Technology & Circuits in Hawaii, Intel provided details of the Intel 3 semiconductor process node, the third of five nodes in four years promised under CEO Pat Gelsinger’s IDM 2.0 manufacturing strategy. Intel 3 represents a major step in the Intel Foundry strategy as the first advanced process node joining the Intel 16 mature process node and a precursor to Intel’s angstrom process nodes: Intel 20A and Intel 18A.

These latter process nodes introduce gate-all-around (or what Intel calls RibbonFET) technology, and backside power delivery (or PowerVia) while returning Intel to the forefront of semiconductor manufacturing. These middle process nodes have been viewed by many as just subnodes introducing simple process enhancements. But as Intel demonstrated in a paper at the IEEE Symposium, Intel 3 represents a full node transition in terms of technology and performance efficiency that will benefit both Intel and the rest of the industry.

Semiconductor manufacturing background

Until recently, semiconductor manufacturing process nodes have adhered to the cadence of Moore’s Law. The law states that major enhancements to the three innovation pillars-transistor design, lithography and materials technology-allow semiconductor companies to essentially double the transistor density every two years on average, which leads to improvements in performance and/or power efficiency.