Intel announced this week the opening of a new fabrication facility in Leixlip, Ireland. The new fab cost Intel a cool $2 billion and is the fourth Intel fab to produce 300mm wafers, establishing Intel as the world leader in 300mm wafer manufacturing. This latest facility adds to Intel’s already impressive array of fab sites which include Hillsboro, Oregon and Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
The Leixlip fab is the third site to start manufacturing CPUs based on a 0.09 micron process, enabling Intel to ramp production of its latest Prescott Pentium 4 CPUs. While reviewers are used to casually referring to the micron process out of hand, it’s worth stopping to think that a 0.09 micron process refers to the creation of circuitry that is one thousandth the thickness of a human hair.
The use of larger 300mm manufacturing enables Intel to produce 2.5 times more chips per wafer than was previously possible, reducing costs by around 30 per cent. The 0.09 micron process also uses 40 per cent less energy and water than previous generations. Shrinking the process to 0.09 micron also enables Intel to double the transistor density on a given integrated chip of the same physical size.
In addition Intel will use a new process technology called "strained silicon" to speed up the transistors. The strained silicon can be used either to enhance performance or to lower power requirements if additional performance is not needed.
Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO sang the praises of the new facility as the “embodiment of Intel’s commitment to high-volume, leading-edge manufacturing capacity”, and that it would enable the company to meet the requirements of its world wide customer base.