Intel & The Pentagon Deepen Ties To Develop World’s Most Advanced Chips 

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Two and a half years after it signed the first phase of the Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes RAMP-C program with the Pentagon, Intel has deepened its partnership with the defense department. Intel, the Pentagon and the national security accelerator program funded by the CHIPS Act have now agreed to work together to produce early test samples of advanced chip manufacturing processes that can only be manufactured in Europe or Asia. As part of a press release, the chip manufacturer shared earlier today that with RAMP-C, the U.S. government will be able to access leading edge chip manufacturing technologies for the first time.

Intel Adds More Customers To Its Foundry Business Division By Continuing to Work On Its Advanced 18A Semiconductor Manufacturing Process

Phase three of the RAMP-C program will cover prototypes made by Intel’s future 18A manufacturing process. These high end chip manufacturing processes are typically used by consumer processors since they use significant amounts of power to run computing and graphics heavy applications.

Manufacturing 18A chips for national security applications is part of Intel’s partnerships with its DIB, or defense industrial base, customers. This list includes contractors Northrop Grumman and Boeing, with consumer firms Microsoft, NVIDIA and IBM part of a broader set of customers that the California based chip manufacturing company is working with to develop the 18A chip manufacturing technology.

This technology is Intel’s next-generation process node, and its predecessor, i.e., the 20A process, should enter production in 2024, according to previous statements made by company executives. Intel also shared key details for the 18A late last year, when CEO Patrick Gelsinger revealed that the 18A process was ahead of schedule.

This was accompanied by a road map from December 2022,  and followed by another Intel road map two months later detailing that 18A. could be ready for risk production (or manufacturing ready in Intel’s terms) by the second half of 2024. The third phase of the RAMP-C contract highlights the readiness of Intel 18A process technology, intellectual property (IP) and ecosystem solutions
for high-volume manufacturing (HVM),
said the firm in a statement accompanying its release.

Gelsinger also touted the superior power management capabilities of Intel’s 18A chips, hyping them up against the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) 2-nanometer technology. After its Intel 3 process, Intel has shifted to the angstrom level for its chip process technology nomenclature.

This means that on a comparison made purely on the basis of their marketing name, the 18A chip process is equivalent to 1.8nm. In chip manufacturing, smaller is better as smaller circuits are able to improve electrical conductivity and performance throughput. Modern day chips squeeze billions of transistors in a tiny space, which allows them to handle more data compared to their predecessors.

As part of today’s release, the Department of Defense’s microelectronics engineering lead, Dr. Dev Shenoy, commented that the Pentagon expects to “demonstrate prototype production of Intel 18A chips in 2025.” The third stage of Intel Foundry’s RAMP-C will focus on taping out chip designs. This is the final stage of the design process where engineers finish with the conceptual part of the process and shift their work to masks that guide advanced chip manufacturing machines in the production process.

Intel turned on the world’s most advanced chip making machine, its first, for the first time earlier this month. These machines, dubbed high NA EUV, will reduce chip manufacturing time by simplifying the design process the firm shared during its announcement.

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