Intel invests $US2 billion to expand Ireland plant

The small town of Leixlip in County Kildaire, Ireland, will be home to some of the world's most cutting-edge semiconductor technology thanks to the future arrival of Intel's new, multibillion-dollar wafer fabrication facility.

The giant chip maker announced on Monday that it will spend $US2 billion to construct the manufacturing plant, extending its existing operations in the town. Called Fab 24, the facility will create about 1000 jobs over the next four years, and will produce the silicon wafers from which Intel's microprocessors are made, the company said.

At first, Fab 24 will produce 200-millimeter (mm) wafers, but will be capable of moving on to 300mm wafers, a technology which IDC analyst Kim Funaski called, "the leading technology out there".

The plant will manufacture chips using a 0.13-micron process technology, as opposed to the 0.18 micron technology most commonly used today. The distance refers to the width of transistors that are etched on the surface of silicon chips, and 0.13 microns is about 100th the width of a human hair.

Intel's use of the new technologies will help it to "sustain long-term growth in the marketplace", a growth that is being propelled by the world's growing internet network, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said.

There are presently 3000 Intel employees at the two existing fabrication plants in Leixlip, a town of about 13,000 people.

Construction on Fab 24 will begin immediately, and the plant will begin producing wafers in late 2001, Intel said. The new facility will occupy more than 1 million square feet, including 135,000 square feet of "cleanroom" where the microprocessors will be made.

When the facility is completed, Intel's cumulative investment in manufacturing facilities in Ireland will total approximately $4.5 billion, the company said.

In January, Intel announced construction of fabrication facility in Colorado and one in Arizona. In late May, it announced the building of a plant in New Mexico. Each of the other plants will also produce the new 300mm wafers and employ the .13-micron process technology, Intel said.

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