Intel keeps building despite market downturn

By Mark A. DeSorbo

SANTA CLARA, CA—THE HIGH-TECH slump is not slowing Intel Corp. down.

The semiconductor powerhouse recently unveiled a $2 billion expansion of its chip-making plant in Rio Rancho, NM., to meet the demand when the economy rebounds.

And that expansion to Fab 11, called Fab 11X, comes on the heels of Intel's 90-nanometer process launch at its D1C Fab as well as the start of construction of the D1D Fab, a ballroom-style cleanroom equipped with minienvironments, where research and development of next-generation nanometer-level geometries will take place.

At Fab 11X, Intel will build microprocessors on 12-inch (300 mm) 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, Xeons, Itanium and Celeron processors, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy says.

Like its D1C fab, he says Fab 11X is a bay-and-chase facility that has more than 200,000 square feet of ISO Class 5 cleanroom space. The facility also has more than 3.5 miles of overhead railway for the automatic robots that transfer front opening unified pods (FOUPs).

“The wafers are either always in the tool or a FOUP, so we do not need the traditional cleanliness level of ISO Class 3,” Mulloy says, adding that along with the 3.5 miles of railway, the facility is also wired with 500 miles of copper and 24 miles of optical cabling.

The facility is also more efficient than other Intel fabs, the company says, producing 48 percent less volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also uses 42 percent less pure process water, while overall water usage is 30 percent less.

According to Intel, the facility in Rio Rancho will produce chips more efficiently than factories that manufacture chips on 8-inch wafers, according to Intel.

In addition, chips made at Fab 11X will have some of the smallest circuitry in the industry at just 130 nanometers. Still, Intel plans to ratchet the size down to 90 nanometers next year.


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.