April 27–CHANDLER, Ariz.–Intel Corporation has begun a $2 billion “clean construction” project to convert a 200-mm fabrication facility to a state-of-the-art 300-mm facility in Chandler, Ariz. The conversion of Fab 12, the first such modification of its kind for Intel, is scheduled to be completed late next year. The converted facility will begin initial production on 65-nanometer process technology.
“The flexibility of our factory designs allows us to completely and efficiently modify the interior of the cleanroom to accommodate the much larger 300-mm production equipment,” said Bob Baker, Intel senior vice president and general manager, Technology and Manufacturing Group. “This project represents a first for Intel-the first complete conversion of an existing 200-mm wafer fab to a 300-mm fab,” he said.
“This conversion will not only enable us to improve our capital efficiency by giving us more than twice the capacity at significantly lower costs, but it will enable us to utilize our experienced and talented workforce in Arizona,” he continued.
“The upgrade is being done in a cleanroom environment,” says Chuck Mulloy, spokesman for Intel. The construction workers will be wearing cleanroom apparel over their steel-toe boots, he says. “It takes a lot more focus, but also allows greater flexibility.” The entire upgrade will be completed without a single change to the exterior of the building.
The factory-automation system will be completely refigured, Mulloy adds, pointing out that the factory is completely automated. “There is no human interaction with the wafers,” he says. “All handling is done by robotics.”
When completed, the converted Fab 12 will become Intel’s fifth 300-mm wafer facility. Five 300-mm fabs provide the equivalent manufacturing capacity of about 10, 200-mm factories. Intel’s other 300-m fabs are located in Hillsboro, Oregon (two); Rio Rancho, New Mexico; and Leixlip, Ireland.
While the Chander, Ariz. plant is being upgraded, approximately 1,000 employees from the plant will be temporarily re-assigned to Intel’s current 300-mm fabs, in New Mexico, Oregon, and Ireland. Those facilities will serve as training sites for these employees until the Chandler plant is once again operational. Some other employees of Fab 12 have been reassigned to Fab 22, which is adjacent to Fab 12.
“When this is done, the workforce will be about the same,” Mulloy comments. “But the production per employee will increase.”
Wafers of 300-mm are approximately 12 inches in diameter, providing an increase in surface area of 225% over more-common 200-mm wafers. This larger surface area allows manufacturers to put significantly more individual computer chips on a wafer, dramatically reducing the cost of each chip. The bigger wafers also diminish the overall use of resources, requiring 40% less energy and water for each chip produced.