Leixlip on track to make 65-nanometre chips

1 Nov 2005

A US$3bn investment project by Intel that Ireland lost out on to New Mexico during the year has received a second tranche of investment worth US$650m, siliconrepublic.com has learned. However, Ireland still remains at the forefront of Intel’s efforts with production of the latest 65-nanometre computer chips set to kick off next year.

During the year, Ireland was competing against Israel and locations in the US for the Fab 32 facility for the production of leading-edge microprocessors in the second half of 2007. The decision of where to locate the US$3bn went to New Mexico.

During last week, Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini announced a further investment of US$650m to increase the capacity of existing 300mm wafer manufacturing capability of Fab 11X.

Ireland’s failure to win the prestigious project followed a controversy over the Government’s unsuccessful bid to gain EU approval to pay Intel €100m in grants towards the construction of Fab 24.

However, Ireland still appears to remain at the forefront of Intel’s current plans to increase manufacturing on 300mm wafers that use 90-nanometre, 65-nanometre and future-process technologies. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre (each human hair measures about 90,000 nanometres in diameter).

The company currently has several fabs manufacturing with 300mm today. These facilities are Fab 11X in New Mexico, D1D and D1C in Oregan and Fab 24 in Leixlip.

It is understood Intel is planning to move to the new 65-nanometre technology in 2006, with production kicking off in three facilities in Arizona, Oregan and Ireland.

The 65-nanometre process could give Intel a jump on archrival AMD, which also plans to produce 65-nanometre chips from a facility in Dresden but may not get to do so until 2007.

It is expected that a new Intel microprocessor code-named Yonah, a 65-nanometre dual-core notebook chip, will go into volume production by the end of the year. It is expected by the end of the third quarter of 2006 more computer chips will be produced on the 65-nanometre process than on the 90-nanometre process.

Manufacturing with 300mm wafers (about 12 inches in diameter) dramatically increases the ability to produce semiconductors at a lower cost compared with more widely used 200mm (eight-inch) wafers. The total silicon surface area of a 300mm wafer is 225pc, or more than twice that of a 200mm wafer, and the number of printed die (individual computer chips) is increased to 240pc. The bigger wafers lower the production cost per chip while diminishing overall use of resources.

“With each subsequent technology process, Intel improves its designs to further reduce impacts to the environment,” said Tim Hendry, Intel technology and manufacturing vice- president and Fab 11X factory manager. “Manufacturing with 300mm wafers uses 40pc less energy and water per chip.”

By John Kennedy