Intel unveils 32nm process technology codenamed Westmere

It has not been very long since Intel launched processors based on the 45nm fabrication process, Intel are now demonstrating the world’s first 32nm processors and announced massive plans for the technology.

Intel are planning on spending a massive $7 billion US over the next two years on building the four 32nm fabrication plants, creating 7,000 high-skill jobs in the US. One is already up and running in Oregon, where another plant is scheduled to be running by the end of 2009. Meanwhile, two further fabs will be built in Arizona and New Mexico in 2010.

When Intel released the 45nm chips they started to use a high-k gate dielectric and a metal gate, as opposed to the Silicon Oxide dielectric and polysilicon gate used in Intel’s previous 65nm chips. This change was due to the fact that when transistor gate sizes get to small tunnelling will begin to occur, where electrons will simply pass through the channel(gate) on their own due to the source (where electrons come from) and the drain (where they go) will be extremely close.

The high-k and metal gate material Intel uses is believed to be based on hafnium compounds (e.g. hafnium oxide or hafnium silicate).

The new 32nm process technology will use the same materials as the 45nm technology however Intel are keen to point out that this technology is now more refined and in its second generation

Intel also says that the 32nm chips will be made using immersion lithography on ‘critical layers’, meaning that a refractive fluid will fill the gap between the lens and the wafer during the fabrication process. AMD is already using immersion lithography to make its 45nm CPUs, but Intel has so far used dry lithography on its 45nm CPUs.

The new line of processors has been codenamed Westmere and Intel is reporting at least a 22 percent performance increase clock for clock over their 45nm process, and there are still many steppings to go before they go to market.

The first Westmere chips will be codenamed Clarkdale, featuring two 32nm logical processors paired with a graphics core and an integrated memory controller built on a 45nm line. By using “Multi-Chip Packaging”, Intel will be able to minimize their losses from defective chips on a maturing manufacturing line. Arrandale is the mobile variant, with additional power saving technology for laptops.

Gulftown is the successor to the Nehalem-based Core i7 and is due in the middle of 2010. Gulftown has six cores, but is capable of efficiently handling twelve threads at once, thanks to its next generation Hyper-Threading. It will use the X58 chipset due to the LGA-1366 socket, but there are rumors of a newer version coming in 2010 that will feature support for USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s.


After the jump is a summery of the product roadmap news at the briefing in San Francisco.

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