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Intel Confirms Oregon Expansion for 7nm Chip Production (Update)

Update - 2/5/19, 7:30 a.m. PT: The Oregonian reported today that Intel has confirmed plans to build "a massive new semiconductor factory in Hillsboro, which will surely run in the billions of dollars and rank among the largest capital projects in Oregon history." Many details about the project are still unknown, however, including when Intel plans to break ground on the new factory. We expect to hear more about the company's progress throughout 2019.

Original article - 1/22/19, 5 a.m. PT:

Intel doesn’t plan to let its continued 14nm shortage or inability to ship 10nm processors stop it from planning the factories where it will make the 7nm chips expected to debut in a few years. The Oregonian reported that the company plans to expand its Oregon factory, D1X, to prep for the 7nm shift.

The report cited anonymous sources in Oregon’s construction industry as saying that “Intel has spoken openly about its D1X plans and expect the project to last at least 18 months, followed by several months of equipment installation,” and that “sources inside Intel’s manufacturing operation also have been told to prepare for a major Oregon project this year.”

Intel senior vice president and general manager of Manufacturing and Operations Dr. Ann Kelleher announced in December 2018 that the company was “in the early planning phase for manufacturing site expansions in Oregon, Ireland, and Israel.” Details were scarce, but Kelleher said Intel had “multi-year construction activities expected to begin in 2019.”

Kelleher also said that Intel planned to start discussing its plans with local officials and going through the permitting process “in the weeks and months ahead.” All of that lines up with The Oregonian’s report—the Oregon expansion, the estimated timeframe, and the fact that the project hasn’t even reached the point where Intel’s had to involve city officials.

The alignment of those details lends more credence to the rest of The Oregonian’s report, which said that Intel plans to expand the existing 2.2 million-square-foot D1X factory with a third “phase” that will add another 1.1 million square feet. The new factory is expected to be where Intel plans to produce 7nm chips via extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV).

This expansion will do little to help Intel in the short term—it’s not like the company plans to have the construction workers make 14nm chips on their breaks. This is to help make sure it won’t run into the same problems with its 7nm chips; Kelleher said the construction would let the company “reduce our time to increased supply by up to roughly 60 percent.”

We could learn more about Intel’s reported Oregon expansion on January 23, when the company is also expected to reveal its pick for chief executive. (You know, more than six months after Brian Krzanich left the company, and two months after he found a new gig.) Hopefully whoever they pick is ready to spend a few billion dollars in Oregon.