Chips move to 22 nm, high density BGAs

Checking in to see how Moore’s Law is playing out can tell a lot about what’s coming down the road. The future of semiconductors will always be a key driver for laminate and board requirements of the future.

A couple of announcements made this week highlight future and current advances. Looking way out, Intel just described a 50-core processor that is already being produced using Intel’s 22-nanometer manufacturing process. This Many Integrated Core chip, codenamed “Knights Corner,” is designed for the upper echelons of the computing world such as the one-of-a-kind CERN Large Hadron Collider.

It’s never going to be a high volume runner, but Intel feels that playing in the supercomputing world prepares it for the future. Devices like Knights Corner also give Intel some prestige.

The company claims that about 80% of the largest high performance computers use Intel devices. Producing leading edge devices that will be used by highly-skilled design teams in research labs also provides a good way to ramp up new processes.

While Intel’s announcing futuristic technologies, the rest of the real world is focused on pushing state of the art for far broader audiences. Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. unveiled a 12-port Gigabit Ethernet PHY that uses the company’s 65 nm processes. That yields a package that crams 672-pins into a 27 x 27 mm lead-free BGA.

Vitesse says the chip reduces the printed circuit board footprint by as much as 50%. That will drive Gbit networking even further into the mainstream, which brings the days of high frequencies like 10 Gbit Ethernet even closer.

Together, the Intel and Vitesse devices sketch out the demands for board and system developers. Higher densities, finer pitches, increasing EMC requirements and more speed will continue to become more challenging for fabricators and EMS companies, as well as the equipment suppliers who help create the future.

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