Intel To Optimise Factories For ARM Chip Manufacturing

There has been a noteworthy agreement this week between Intel’s chip contract manufacturing division and UK chip designer ARM Holdings.

Intel Foundry Services (IFS) and ARM announced a “multigeneration agreement to enable chip designers to build low-power compute system-on-chips (SoCs) on the Intel 18A process.”

The move comes after Intel chip factories used to be the dominant source of central processing units (CPUs), but they are now competing against contract chip makers such as TSMC and Samsung Electronics.

ARM collaboration

Intel had at one stage been facing investor questions as to whether the firm should keep its own chip design capabilities and manufacturing fabs under one roof, after it experienced well documented setbacks in the development of 10nm and 7nm processes, which in turn hindered its competitiveness in the market.

Soon after CEO Pat Gelsinger took charge of the chip giant in 2021, he unveiled a turnaround plan (IDM 2.0) that doubled down on its inhouse chip manufacturing capabilities when he opened Intel’s chip plants to outside customers via Intel Foundry Services.

Now Intel Foundry Services (IFS) and ARM have reached an agreement, which will initially focus on mobile SoC designs, but allows for potential design expansion into automotive, Internet of Things (IoT), data centre, aerospace and government applications.

Intel said that firms such as Qualcomm are planning to use its factories for future chip designs.

It should be noted that ARM already has partnerships with other major chip contract manufacturers to ensure that its designs will work well on their manufacturing processes.

Foundry partner

“There is growing demand for computing power driven by the digitisation of everything, but until now fabless customers have had limited options for designing around the most advanced mobile technology,” said Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel.

“Intel’s collaboration with ARM will expand the market opportunity for IFS and open up new options and approaches for any fabless company that wants to access best-in-class CPU IP and the power of an open system foundry with leading-edge process technology,” said Gelsinger.

“ARM’s secure, energy-efficient processors are at the heart of hundreds of billions of devices and the planet’s digital experiences,” added Rene Haas, CEO of the UK chip designer. “As the demands for compute and efficiency become increasingly complex, our industry must innovate on many new levels. ARM’s collaboration with Intel enables IFS as a critical foundry partner for our customers as we deliver the next generation of world-changing products built on ARM.”

As part of its IDM 2.0 strategy, Intel said its collaboration with ARM will enable a more balanced global supply chain for foundry customers working in mobile SoC design on ARM-based CPU cores.

“By unlocking ARM’s leading-edge compute portfolio and world-class IP on Intel process technology, ARM partners will be able to take full advantage of Intel’s open system foundry model, which goes beyond traditional wafer fabrication to include packaging, software and chiplets,” Intel said.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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