In 2019, the U.S Department of Energy selected Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) to build the $500 million supercomputer. The Department was banking on the chipmaker to produce computer chips in the U.S and counter a technology challenge from China.
The machine has been named Aurora and is expected to be installed at the Department’s facilities in Chicago in 2021. It is projected that the first U.S system to reach the exascale computing level. The chipmaker had promised to deliver three types of chips from its factories in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon.
However, the technology giant is experiencing a technology delay that could put the entire plan in disarray. It is one of the latest challenges that the U.S government and the technology industry are facing in the bid to reverse America’s dependence on foreign-made semiconductors. The hitch is also an indication of the challenges ahead as the country tries to regain its place in semiconductor production industry.
Intel still dominates the U.S chip industry
Intel is the main supplier of computer chips for most PC brands and web services. The company is known for making electronic devices smaller, faster, and affordable. In a recent update, then the company’s Chief Executive Officer Robert Swan warned that the next series of chips would be delayed for 12 months and even proposed that some chips that are expected to be used on Aurora be produced outside the company’s factories.
With Intel currently facing several challenges, researchers and analysts have projected that Aurora may not be launched on time. In addition, the proposal to use foreign-made components would undermine then government’s objective of having an all-American design.
“That is part of the story they were trying to sell,” said Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee who tracks supercomputer installations around the world. “Now they stumbled.”
Other PC makers like AMD, Nvidia, and Apple outsource their chips from either Taiwan-based TSMC or South Korea-based Samsung. TSMC is known for operating the world’s most advanced foundries. While Intel is having issues with 7nm standard chips production, TSMC recently announced that it is on track to start mass production of 3nm standard chips. This means TSMC is two full generations ahead of Intel.