Intel has loads of challenges in manufacturing processors. But it surely found a brand new one — harmful elevator doorways — in the course of the improvement of Ponte Vecchio, the processor brains getting used to assemble the Aurora supercomputer.
Intel personnel have been transferring a bunch of the processors on a cart when a closing elevator door toppled it, Raja Koduri, chief of Intel’s Accelerated Computing Techniques and Graphics Group, mentioned at Intel’s Innovation convention Tuesday.
He did not say what number of have been ruined, however the loss stung as a result of they have been preliminary samples used to check efficiency and search for issues. “Each certainly one of them at that stage is pricey,” Koduri mentioned in an interview. With lots of of producing steps, it takes months to make a single superior chip.
The elevator door wasn’t only a one-off bummer. It really revealed an issue that stood in the best way of Intel’s effort to reclaim its processor manufacturing management: human error.
Ponte Vecchio is a mammoth processor with greater than 100 billion transistors, nearly as many as anyone’s processor within the enterprise. To make one thing that large, Intel used its superior packaging strategies to convey collectively 47 separate slices of silicon.
However that packaging relied on people, carts and elevators which are far more fallible than the processes Intel sometimes makes use of to construct chips.
Making Meteor Lake: Extra automation, fewer elevators
In distinction, Intel makes use of far more automation for the superior packaging underlying its 2023 PC processor, code-named Meteor Lake. Meteor Lake’s parts, referred to as chiplets, might be joined right into a single processor at Intel’s new superior packaging fabrication facility, or fab, close to Portland, Oregon, Koduri mentioned.
The Ponte Vecchio processor is designed to speed up duties like scientific calculations, graphics and synthetic intelligence. It is now formally named Intel’s Knowledge Heart GPU. Solely the Aurora Supercomputer will get the processors now, however Intel plans to promote them extra broadly beginning in 2023, Koduri mentioned. They compete mainly towards Nvidia’s new Hopper H100 graphics processing models.
Supercomputers are vital, however Meteor Lake is extra vital to Intel’s destiny. PC processors are one of many firm’s largest product strains, and rivals AMD and Apple have grown extra aggressive.
With Meteor Lake Intel builds a few of the chiplets with its personal new Intel 4 manufacturing course of, a key step on the corporate’s effort to reclaim management misplaced to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and Samsung.
However with a sophisticated packaging expertise referred to as Foveros, Intel additionally hyperlinks these chiplets with others from TSMC. The superior packaging strategies let Intel advance some processor parts sooner whereas chopping prices on others.
Ponte Vecchio makes use of Foveros and one other Intel packaging expertise referred to as EMIB. The place Foveros stacks chiplets one atop one other like pancakes, EMIB hyperlinks their edges aspect to aspect with high-speed hyperlinks. EMIB is essential to a different Intel processor — its Sapphire Rapids chip coming to servers in 2023.
In designing Ponte Vecchio, Intel anticipated troubles with packaging. However the firm was stunned with how easily it labored.
“The factor that we have been most apprehensive about was superior packaging,” however the 47 chiplets went collectively easily, Koduri mentioned in a press convention. The issues got here from mundane issues like a bug within the PCI Specific communications system.
That consequence helped persuade Intel it might make use of superior packaging for a important processor like Meteor Lake.
“It gave us a variety of confidence for larger quantity merchandise to do superior packaging,” Koduri mentioned.