The semiconductor industry must, at last, outgrow its obsession with pitch shrinkage, and go creative with the "heterogeneous integration of different technologies" to push economic growth.
The Intel people might as well keep insisting that Moore’s Law isn’t dead, and that their 14-nm chip can pack more transistors than their rivals. That’s Intel being Intel, with a narrative that serves its purpose.
But this story doesn’t necessarily apply to other chip companies looking for a better valuation.
Node names have become meaningless. The death of Moore’s Law has been greatly exaggerated, leaving no clear alternative law for chip designers to believe and blindly follow.
The semiconductor industry must, at last, outgrow its obsession with pitch shrinkage, and go creative with the “heterogeneous integration of different technologies” to push economic growth, according to Nicky Lu, chairman, CEO and founder of Etron Technology.
In short, it’s time to stop using Moore’s Law as a security blanket.
Late last month when I saw Lu in Taipei, he launched a long disquisition on how Moore’s Law “has already gone virtual,” with Intel’s introduction of a “non-planar” transistor structure for its 22nm technology.
Niky Lu (Pohto: EE Times)
Lu suspects that Intel wouldn’t appreciate him calling Moore’s Law “virtual.” But Moore’s Law, in his opinion, long ago stopped serving chip engineers as a technology guide. Instead, Moore’s Law has been serving the investment community as “an economic law that justifies return on investment,” he explained.
As long as investors use it as a yardstick for the semiconductor industry’s growth, chip vendors feel they can’t afford to acknowledge the obsolescence of Moore’s Law. Even Lu doesn’t exactly declare Moore’s repeal.
But it’s important for the semiconductor industry to acknowledge that the industry “changed the rules of the game” when Intel -- followed by TSMC and Samsung -- opted for a tri-gate structure [known as FinFET], Lu noted. “The semiconductor industry replaced line scaling (transistor size) with area scaling (miniaturizing the unit area),” thus fundamentally changing the very nature of Moore’s Law, Lu said.
In Lu’s view, it’s critical to recognize that the semiconductor industry is no longer following the original template. Moore’s Law survived not by the shrinkage of the traditional transistor, but by riding variety of techniques -- including advancements in packaging.
Next page: Dennard Scaling and Moore's Law