Intel opens new 0.13 micron fab

Intel Corp. announced the opening of a new manufacturing plant on Wednesday, which will be used to produce 0.13-micron versions of its Pentium III and Pentium 4 processors.

The wafer fabrication plant in Chandler, Arizona, known as "Fab 22," was built in 18 months, which is a new record for the company, Brian Harrison, vice president of Intel's technology and manufacturing group, said in Santa Clara, California. Intel has already hired over 1,000 employees to work at the plant, which has 133,000 square feet of "clean room" space for manufacturing the chips, Harrison said. Because of the intricacies involved in processor manufacturing, a fab clean room is "about 10,000 times cleaner than an operating room," he said.

While the economy is still suffering from a downturn, Intel feels that investing in future technology, such as this US$2 billion plant, gives it an advantage over the competition. "We continue to invest in good times and bad times," Harrison said. "We're building today for volumes that are expected in a year or two."

The circuits created using the 0.13-micron manufacturing process are so small that it would take around 1,000 circuits to equal the width of a human hair, Intel said. The 0.13-micron chips are designed to take less power and generate less heat than the larger 0.18-micron processors still used by Intel and other chip makers. Using the 0.13 manufacturing process allows approximately twice as many chips to be built from the same size wafer as the 0.18-micron process, Harrison said.

The plant, which actually began producing wafers last month, is the largest of Intel's four 0.13-micron plants: the other three are in Oregon, California and Massachusetts.

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