Cannonlake is the code name for Intel’s next generation of CPUs manufactured on a brand new 10 nanometre process. We say it’s a code name, because the products haven’t really materialised. These upcoming CPUs have been promised since 2016. As you glance at your calendar, you’ll note that we’re now heading into the middle of 2018. Intel has now advised that CPUs manufactured on this process is facing yet another delay, this time until 2019.
CPU manufacturing is a big business and a big risk. As other companies have fallen by the wayside, Intel has remained dominant in its field. However, there were signs in 2014 that Intel was running into issues with its in-house manufacturing when 14 nanometre products began to be delayed. Broadwell arrived late to the party, and was almost a whimper of a series, restricted mainly to laptops. Following on from that, Intel released Skylake, and other mild refreshes of the 14 nanometre processes to remain in the game.
The reason for the new delay is manufacturing issues. Mr Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel described the problems they were facing in getting these new products working properly:
“We are shipping [10-nm chips] in low volume and yields are improving, but the rate of improvement is slower than we anticipated. As a result, volume production is moving from the second half of 2018 into 2019. We understand the yield issues and have defined improvements for them, but they will take time to implement and qualify.”
Intel relies on deep ultraviolet laser technology to etch the transistors on to the silicon wafers. However, this process is forcing Intel to have to etch areas of the wafer up to six times in order to complete a Cannonlake chip. This means the manufacturing process takes longer, costs more and reduces the yields of each wafer. Because of this, low volume production of some products has begun, but full production won’t begin until next year. It’s unclear where these new products have been going, or whether they’re even on sale.
For now, Intel retains the confidence of its partners. However, these delays are going to bite, especially as competing chip manufacturers forge ahead with newer and better manufacturing processes. In the meantime, what out for another generation of Intel’s current processors, and for slightly higher clockspeeds to retain some semblance of performance improvement. As for exciting products like Cannonlake, you’ll have to keep waiting.