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Subject: Re: Introducing "No-Moore's Law"

Author: Robert Hyatt

Date: 10:31:54 02/27/03

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On February 26, 2003 at 12:03:42, Steve J wrote:

>>5.  I am also looking for some predictions/information about processor speed in
>>20-30 years from now.  For micro's Moore's law still holds.  So 21 years is 7
>>doublings of speed or 128 times as fast as today.
>
>
>   I've spent 25 years in manufacturing side of the semiconductor industry and
>would like to introduce what I call "No-Moore's Law".  It describes the physical
>limitations that silicon (or any other compound) will run out of gas and can be
>shrunk no more.  It also talks about some of the financial limitations of
>shrinking die.
>


What you have written can't be true.  Because if you read this forum long
enough,
you realize that many are convinced that designing chips is a trial-and-error
process
where the engineers don't know anything at all about how fast a chip will run
until it
is produced and tested.  No ideas about the expected wafer defect rate.  Etc.
It was a
nice explanation of a known issue, but it can't be right because it implies that
the
engineers really know what they are doing, rather than relying on blind luck to
get something to work.

:)

Of course, all the engineers I personally know are repeating your story and they
are
sticking to it.  But they must all be mistaken.  After all engineering isn't a
true science,
it is based mostly on serendipity.

:)

Bob




>  There are several key points.  1) There are physical limitations to what
>degree a transistor size can be shrunk.  This is based on the size of the atom,
>and 2) There are exponential increases in the costs of fabs and mask sets as
>each reduction takes place.  These will cause a practical end to the amount that
>die sizes can be shrunk.
>
>
>  First, let's take a look at the existing "90 nanometer" process.  The
>operations of the circuits relies on tightly controlled processes.  While the
>circuits and processes are controlled very tightly, a 10% mismatch between
>components on a given die can be fatal.
>  The size of a silicon atom is .3 nanometers.  This means that existing
>processes are about 300 atoms across.  At this size, a one atom variance is .3%.
> However, if the transistor size is halved, for example, five time, then it will
>be 300/(2^5) =~ 10 atoms across.  This means only one atom variance will cause a
>mismatch of 10%!  Added to that is normal processing variance which will makes
>the product not manufacturable.
>  If we assume that the size is halved every two years, then there is about 10
>years left in Moore's law.
>
>
>  Compounding the problem is the exponential cost of making fabrication lines of
>finer size transistors.  From a historical perspective, 25 years ago it cost
>under 10 Million dollars to put together a fab (equipment, extra cost for a
>clean environment, etc).  EACH product that was made in a fab would have a
>dedicated mask set as tooling to make the product in that fab.  This tooling
>cost in the range of $10k to $15k.
>  At that time not only did every company, but, every product line within a
>company that had more than $50 Million in sales would have their own fab line.
>Many companies would have 6 to 8 (or more) fab lines.
>  The costs of leading edge processes have increase dramatically.  There are no
>more $10 Million fabs being made.  Many new fabs are costing $1 Billion or more!
> This has caused a dramatic shift in fab investments.  Not too surprisingly,
>very few companies can afford to make a leading edge fab, and instead, rely on
>companies like TSMC and UMC to make the large investments and allocate the cost
>into the costs into the sales price of the wafers.
>  While this has provided a working business model, as the cost of fabs continue
>to double, there will be a point at which the incremental savings from a new
>process technology will be too expensive to justify the cost of the fab.
>
>  The mask set tooling has also increased dramatically.  Instead of $10k to $15k
>dollars for a set, maturing processes of today cost $100k.  Products that are in
>design right now are forecasted to have mask set tooling costs in excess of
>$500k.  Given that the entire annual budget for smaller companies (including
>salaries, rent, etc) can be $5 Million, it will not take long before fewer and
>fewer companies will be able to make a run at the market with new products.
>
>
>  The bottom line is that physical and financial constraint will bring an end to
>Moore's law.  Realistically, it will not be an abrupt halt, but, instead from
>doubling every two years, to double every four years, then to 5% increase per
>year.
>  My bet is that we will see a dramatic slowing in 7 to 10 years.
>  Beyond that, we will rely increasingly on more processors per system and other
>techniques instead of more transistors per processor die.



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