Chip Makers Utilize ‘Chiplets’ as Lego Blocks to Propel AI Evolution

According to industry executives, “chiplets” offer a simpler way to design more powerful chips and are considered one of the most significant advancements in integrated circuit technology in over 60 years. Darío Gil, head of research at IBM, stated in an interview that packaging and chiplets are a crucial part of the future of semiconductors, providing more power and efficiency compared to designing massive chips from scratch.

Tech giants such as AMD, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have formed a coalition to establish standards for chiplet design. Nvidia, the world’s first trillion-dollar chip company, later joined the coalition. Chinese companies, as well as Apple, have also become members. For instance, Apple’s high-end Mac Studio computer, released last year, utilizes chiplet technology to connect two computing processors.

Chiplet technology allows engineers to combine pre-existing chips, similar to building a toy car with a few Lego pieces. This concept has gained popularity among artificial intelligence (AI) companies that require chips optimized for AI calculations. Nvidia, for example, can connect its existing graphics-processing chips with custom chips designed by companies with specialized needs.

As chip manufacturers face challenges in packing more transistors into smaller spaces, chip stacking through chiplet technology is seen as the primary mechanism for scaling chip performance in a cost- and power-efficient way. TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip maker, has its own chiplet-based platforms for clients. Production in advanced packaging is expected to double by 2025 compared to 2021.

While chiplet designs are better suited for higher-end products, such as expensive Apple desktops, due to the cost of designing and manufacturing advanced chips, combining multiple less-advanced chips using chiplet technology is a cost-effective solution to improve performance.

Advanced packaging is an area of competition between the US and China, with both countries investing in research and development. The US Chips and Science Act allocated $2.5 billion for an advanced-packaging program, while China offers tax incentives. China has a significant presence in chip assembly, testing, and packaging but faces challenges due to potential supply chain disruptions and restrictions on advanced chip-making equipment.

In conclusion, chiplets represent a significant advancement in chip design, providing a simpler and more efficient way to create powerful chips. With ongoing developments in chiplet technology and improving production processes, chiplet-based designs are expected to play a crucial role in the future of semiconductors.

 

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