Intel last week said that its Fab 42, which began construction in 2011, had started operations. The manufacturing facility is producing processors (opens in new tab) using the company’s 10nm process technology and is the company’s third location to use the company’s latest node. The addition of the third 10nm capable fab to the fleet can significantly improve availability of Intel’s latest products. (Via AZCentral/Intel (opens in new tab))
The Third 10nm Fab
Intel can produce chips using its 10 nm process technologies (2nd generation 10nm used for Ice Lake, Ice Lake-SP, Elkhart Lake, Snow Ridge as well as 3rd generation 10nm SuperFin used for Tiger Lake and DG1) at three of its sites: in Israel, Oregon, and Arizona. All of the company’s 10nm products released to date were produced either in Oregon or in Israel as Fab 42 in Arizona was waiting for demand for 10nm CPUs to pick up.
The addition of Fab 42 to the fleet of facilities that manufacture 10nm products in high volume promises to significantly improve Intel’s abilities to supply said processors. As a result, there will be more Tiger Lake-based designs when compared to Ice Lake-powered designs.
Intel traditionally does not disclose production capacity of its fabs, but it noted that Fab 42 connects to three other Intel fabs, making the site the company’s ‘first mega-factory network.’ Typically, megafabs are fabrication facilities that offer capacity between 25,000 and 100,000 wafer starts per month. Meanwhile, WSPM capacity depends on particular process technology and varies between nodes.
According to Intel, so far it has invested over $23 billion on its manufacturing facility in Arizona. At present, it employs 12,000 people in the state.
Intel’s Fab 42: A Short History Lesson
Intel’s Fab 42 has an interesting history as one of the company’s leading-edge manufacturing facilities. The world’s largest maker of processors started to construct the factory in 2011. Back then the prospects of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography were uncertain, so Intel envisioned that the industry might move to larger — 450mm — wafers in the foreseeable future. As a result, Fab 42 was built to be compatible with equipment processing 450mm wafers.
The construction was completed in 2013 and essential things like heating and air conditioning were installed. But in early 2014 the company decided not to move in semiconductor production equipment used to make chips using then leading edge 14nm process technology as it was not sure about demand.
In early 2017, Intel announced plans to spend $7 billion to equip its Fab 42 in a bid to make chips using its next-generation 7nm fabrication technology. Over time it turned out that Intel needed more 10nm capacity, so the fab was equipped with tools required for 10nm nodes that are supposed to use the same production equipment. Meanwhile, it is unclear whether Fab 42 can indeed produce chips using Intel’s 7nm manufacturing process that relies both on DUV and EUV lithography.