Intel starts conversion of Arizona fab to larger wafers

Intel's US$2 billion overhaul of its semiconductor manufacturing plant in Chandler, Arizona, is under way as the facility converts to process larger silicon wafers that will cut the manufacturing cost per chip of Intel's products, the company said in a release Wednesday.

The facility, known as Fab 12, currently processes 200-millimeter silicon wafers. Intel plans to convert the facility to handle 300- millimeter wafers, allowing the company to produce more chips per wafer.

Individual chips are cut from circular silicon wafers after the circuits are etched into the wafer with lithography tools. The combination of larger wafers with smaller process technologies helps increase manufacturing efficiency and improve the margins of semiconductor manufacturers such as Intel.

Also, larger wafers reduce the amount of energy and water required to manufacture a single chip, Intel said.

Fab 12 will be the fifth Intel plant to process 300-millimeter wafers, joining two facilities in Oregon, one in New Mexico and one in Ireland. It is the first complete conversion of a 200-millimeter facility to a 300 millimeter facility, and is expected to be completed in late 2005, Intel said.

The Arizona fab will also be Intel's first facility to manufacture processors on its 65-nanometer process technology, which is currently under development. Intel rolled out its 90-nanometer technology earlier this year at one of its Oregon facilities.

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