GPU manufacturer to hop on to 7nm for post-Volta architecture

A few days back, it was reported that NVIDIA were planning on developing its upcoming Volta architecture on the same 16nm FinFET process node as the current Pascal architecture. And although this takes care of NVIDIA’s immediate future, we know very little about the company’s plans after Volta. Until today, that is.

A new report suggests that the GPU manufacturing giant is setting its sight on the 7nm process node, at the expense of 10nm lithography. The report backs up it claims by mentioning a job listing by NVIDIA posted a few weeks back. The job description stated that NVIDIA required a Senior Failure Analysis Enginee And although it appeared a rather standard job posting, the last line mentioned that the candidate should be familiar with 10nm lithography.

Interestingly, the job posting was updated by NVIDIA a few days ago, and the updated one replaces 10nm with 7nm lithography. This is a rather vivid indication of NVIDIA deciding to move away from 10nm entirely to focus on the more lucrative 7nm technology.

And in many ways, it makes sense for the company to do so. Volta is probably going to be released sometime in late 2017 or early 2018. By that time, TSM’s 7nm FinFET is expected to enter mass production, which sets it up nicely for anything post-Volta for NVIDIA.

By ditching 10nm for Volta, NVIDIA has all but abandoned the 10nm train entirely. Anything that is released by NVIDIA on 10nm in 2018 would take time to mature, something which wouldn’t make sense for NVIDIA as a newer 7nm would be available by that time.

And choosing 16nm for Volta also makes quite a lot of sense, as 16nm FinFET is still in its infancy. The company is known to produce highly capable chips when a process node is mature, as demonstrated by the GTX 980Ti and Titan X Maxwell on the 28nm process node. So by having another generation on the same node, NVIDIA are effectively implementing a tick-tock release strategy, just like Intel.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that 7nm will apparently be the last traditional process node for processors, as anything smaller than that introduces Quantum Physics phenomena into the mix.