Bigger, Better, Faster

Dec. 21, 2004
Intel Corp. converts 200-mm wafer factory in Chandler, Ariz.
The result: increased productivity.

In 1965 Gordon Moore, who co-founded Intel in 1968, observed an exponential growth in the number of transistors per integrated circuit and predicted that this trend would continue. Dubbed "Moore's Law," it is a trend that Intel Corp. strives to maintain every day. Indeed, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company plans to convert its 200-mm wafer fabrication facility (Fab 12) in Chandler, Ariz., to a 300-mm wafer facility, thus increasing productivity and reducing end costs. The conversion will begin in the first half of 2004, and production is slated to begin in 2005. When completed, the converted Fab 12 will become Intel's fifth 300-mm wafer facility. According to the company, five 300-mm facilities provide the equivalent manufacturing capacity of about 10 200-mm factories because manufacturing with 300-mm wafers, which are 12 inches in diameter, increases the ability to produce semiconductors at a lower cost compared with the current standard 200-mm (8-inch) wafers. Additionally, the total silicon surface area of a 300-mm wafer is 225% that of a 200-mm wafer, and the number of computer chips extracted per wafer is increased by 240%. The current building, which is about 1 million square feet, will undergo $2 billion in renovations and upgrades. "The decision was made to convert rather than build new because we have a workforce there that is pretty highly trained," says Chuck Mulloy, spokesman for Intel's technology manufacturing group. "Also, the building itself is relatively new -- less than 10 years old. What do you do with the old factory if you don't convert? It would be running older-generation technology that would only last another 10 years. At some point you'll be faced with a decommissioning." While the current facility boasts a trained workforce, Mulloy notes that the technology is new. "The staffing will be in a state of flux during the year to 18 months it takes to ramp-up. A lot of training needs to take place. "In terms of adding employees, we've found that we have tremendous productivity. One of the key factors involved with the 300-mm technology is that it is much more highly automated because the wafers are bigger, and they are transported in plastic cases called FOUPs [front opening utility pods]. Rather than hand carry them, part of the design of 300-mm technology includes elements of factory automation systems." As for the old facility, reusing some elements and discarding others will take place. Mulloy says the new facility will be able to reuse the power systems, air-handling equipment, and the health and safety equipment. The manufacturing equipment will go to other 200-mm fabs, be sold or donated to universities. "We do what we can to get more useful life out of these facilities," says Mulloy. "We try to find ways to reuse the assets that we have that make sense."

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