Chiplet futures to grow 9x in four years, Omdia says

Analyst firm Omdia predicted Tuesday that chiplets used in manufacturing semiconductors will expand by nine times in four years, reaching a global market of $5.8 billion in 2024.

 Chiplets are being adopted in various integrated semiconductors such as microprocessors (MPUs), System-on-Chip (SOC) device, graphic processing units (GPUs) and programmable logic devices (PLDs), Omdia said.

Of that group, MPUs are the largest single market for chiplets.  The MPU market in 2018 was $452 million and will grow to $2.5 billion in 2024, Omdia said.  That compares to the overall market for chiplets that was $645 million in 2018 and will grow 9x to $5.8 billion in 2024.

Chiplets have been described as modular pieces of silicon combined onto a single chip, similar to assembling Lego blocks.For example,  AMD’s Epyc 2, codenamed Rome, has eight 7nm chiplets, each with eight cores. It was shown at CES in 2019.

A slowdown in the expansion of the number of transistors on a single silicon chip in recent years has meant that traditional semi production model is decelerating.  Omdia sees the chiplet as the industry’s way to restore the microchip industry to its historic rate of advancement.

Moore’s Law, a forecasting benchmark which is now 55 years old, said that the number of transistors that can be placed on a single silicon chip doubles every two years because semi manufacturing technology has found ways to shrink the process nodes used in making chip designs.   However, the pace of doubling every two years has slowed to about 2.5 years, as production processes have encountered physical limitations at extremely small sizes. 

To achieve density doubling, both the contacted poly pitch and minimum metal pitch need to scale by about 0.7 times on each node. Process node used to refer to gate length in a transistor, but that definition has lost its meaning in recent years as transistor density has increased while gate length remained the same.

Omdia analyst Tom Hackenberg said chiplets bypass Moore’s Law by replacing a single silicon die with multiple smaller dice that work together in a packaged way.  The chiplet approach provides much more silicon to add transistors than with monolithic chip production. With that capability, Omdia said chipmakers can return to the two-year double cycle that was behind the economics of the chip business going back to 1965.

Both Intel and AMD are early adopters in making proprietary advanced packaging chiplets.  Intel is a member of the Open Compute Project which is promoting standard to enable advanced packaging strategies.

Omdia has also said chiplet revenue will expand to $57 billion in revenue by 2035, with growth from heterogeneous processors that combine different processing elements. That could mean applications processors would integrate graphics, security engines, artificial intelligence acceleration, low-power Internet of Things controllers and more.

“Chiplets will bolster the cadence Gorden Moore conveyed in his original 1965 article,” Hackenberg said.

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