7 Lessons from an ML Internship at Intel | by Conor O’Sullivan | Feb, 2024

Automation, machine learning and LLMs in the chip industry

(source: chatGPT)

I felt like one of those guys from Monsters Inc. You know, the ones in the big yellow hazmat suits. A necessary precaution! I was entering the most complex manufacturing environment in the world. One that requires so much precision that even microscopic particulates from your breath can disrupt it.

During a 6 month internship at Intel, I learn a lot about the semiconductor industry. How it is going through a time of turmoil, how Intel is reacting and why this means machine learning will be more important. I saw how everything from old-school CV algorithms to LLMs help to produce the world’s most valuable commodity — chips.

I want to share this experience with you.

1) “Intel is like a bakery”

is how my manager tried to summarise a process that I could never fully understand. They:

  • Create recipes → design chips
  • Bake bread → manufacture chips

But they do not build the machines to do this.

I saw some of these up close. The most impressive are the photolithography machines built by ASML. They use light waves to etch patterns a few atoms wide into silicon wafers. The shorter the wavelength the smaller you can make the transistors in a chip. This is the key driver of Moore’s law.

… to make EUV lithography possible, we needed to engineer a way to create such light within a system. So, we developed a radically new approach to generating light for lithography. — AMSL

The most advanced machine produces extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light. This is done by shooting laser pulses at droplets of tin to produce plasma. To produce enough, 50000 droplets are hit per second. The machine I was looking at took over 17 years and $6 billion to create.

So yeah, like a bakery … with some very expensive ovens!

2) Everything is automated

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