OCT. 23–SAN JOSE, CA–Despite the high-tech slump, semiconductor giant Intel Corp. has opened a $2 billion expansion of its chip-making plant in New Mexico to meet demand when the economy rebounds.
The expansion, called Fab 11X, will build microprocessors on 12-inch (30-centimeter) silicon wafers using the most advanced process technology, says Paul Otellini, Intel’s president.
“As computing and communications devices converge, the need for increasingly complex components with more capabilities will grow,” he says. “This facility will help us meet that growing demand.”
Intel, which is best known for its Pentium-branded processors, also makes communications processors, flash memory and other silicon-based chips. The expanded plant will build Pentium 4, Pentium 3 Mobile and other processors, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said.
The facility in Rio Rancho, NM, will produce chips more efficiently than factories that manufacture chips on 8-inch (20-centimeter) wafers, Intel said. The newer wafers have 225 percent more surface area than older ones.
In addition, chips made at Fab 11X will have some of the smallest circuitry in the industry just 130 nanometers. Still, Intel plans to ratchet the features size down to 90 nanometers next year.
A nanometer is about 10,000 times narrower than a human hair.
The expansion, built over two years, has 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) of railway for automatic robots, 500 miles (800 kilometers) of copper cabling and 24 miles (38.6 kilometers) of optical cabling.