Intel Unveils ‘3-D’ Chipmaking Approach in Bid to Boost Lead

Intel Develops ‘3-D’ Chipmaking Approach
Intel Corp. signage is displayed outside of the company's headquarters in Santa Clara, California. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Intel Corp., the world’s largest semiconductor maker, unveiled a processor made with a “3-D” manufacturing technique that increases chip performance as much as 37 percent while using less power.

The new Ivy Bridge processor will be in production by the end of this year, Santa Clara, California-based Intel said today in a statement. The chip is the first to rely on 3-D tri-gate transistors, an approach almost 10 years in the making that squeezes 22-nanometer circuits onto a piece of silicon.

“This breakthrough will extend Intel’s lead even further over the rest of the semiconductor industry,” Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr said in the statement. “The low-voltage and low-power benefits far exceed what we typically see from one process generation to the next.”

While mainly designed for personal computers, the new technology could help Intel get its processors into phones and other battery-powered devices because it uses less power. Though eight out of every 10 PCs sold are based on Intel processors, there are no phones on sale that feature its designs. The new chips could draw half the power of current models when processing at the same speed, saving battery life.

The more transistors on a chip, the more information it can handle. Packing transistors closer together makes processors more powerful, cheaper or more power-efficient, depending on the designer’s priorities.

Vertical Thinking

Until now, horizontally shrinking the line widths of transistor circuits -- and the wires that link them together -- has been the way to increase their density. The 3-D approach adds a vertical element, helping fit more of them on the chip and improving their responsiveness, Intel said. The new lines are 22 nanometers, compared with 32 nanometers with the previous generation of chips. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

The new technology would put Intel a generation ahead of rivals. Its main competitor in computer processors, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., is rolling out its first 32-nanometer processors this quarter.

Intel rose 45 cents to $23.50 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have gained 12 percent this year.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE