Intel shows off Fab manufacturing progress  with media tour of Ocotillo campus in Chandler AZ

Intel's new state of the art Fab 52 and Fab 62 are scheduled to come on line next year. Intel recently held a media event where they detailed the progress within the company's overall strategy and provided a media tour of the factory floor of the existing Fab 42.

Construction taking place at the site of the two new chip factories, Fab 52 and Fab 62, at Intel Corporation’s Ocotillo campus in Chandler, Arizona.

Intel has been in Arizona for a long time, since 1979, with 13,000 employees. In 2001, however, the decision was made to significantly ramp up investment in the state. This involved the decision to invest $20 billion in the construction of two state-of-the-art semiconductor facilities in its Ocotillo campus, which is located in Chandler, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb. The two new semiconductor fabs, Fab 52 and Fab 62, will manufacture Intel’s most advanced process technologies, including Intel 18A and Intel 20A featuring the new RibbonFET and PowerVia innovations. Recently, Intel invited a group of journalists, principally with a channel focus, to tour the site, and get an indication of the progress that has been made.

Intel has stated many times the reason for their strategy, that the supply chain for fabs has been limited, which has made it vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. Today, only three companies – Samsung, TSMC, and Intel, the first two of which are based in Asia, now work on building leading edge fabs, down from 18 such companies in the 2004-2009 period.

“80% of the supply today is in Asia, 12% is in North America and 8% is in Europe,” said Frank Truong, Chief of Staff, Global Supply Chain Operations at Intel. “Our  goal is to get 50% of semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. and the E.U. by 2030. We don’t want our customers to be dependent on a single source of failure.”

Intel is emphasizing that the whole project in Ocotillo to raise Intel’s capacity has been done in accordance with the company’s sustainability strategy.

“Our RISE strategy – Responsible, Inclusive, Sustainable and Enabling – is a key differentiator for us,” said Todd Brady, VP Global Public Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer at Intel.

Brady said that Intel’s sustainability strategy has three components.

“One is reducing our own environmental footprint,” he said. “The second is building sustainability into our own products and services to make them energy efficient. The third is collaborating with our customers, suppliers, other companies and non-profits  to build solutions that help others reduce their own environmental impacts.”

Brady cited policies around water, which is critical for semiconductor manufacturing, as an example.

“There used to be a 2-1 ratio in using water to produce the ultra-pure water, that we need,” he said. “From this 50% ratio, it is now over 90%. Water has been restored to watersheds through Intel-funded products. In Arizona, we funded farmers to switch from alfalfa, a summer crop, to barley, a winter crop, to reduce water demand in the summer. We have done over 40 of these, most in the U.S. southwest.”

The media tour on the factory floor.

Intel conducted a press tour on the interior of one of the existing plants (since Fab 52 and Fab 62 are not yet completed), in which channel media were heavily represented. All people on the floor of the Fab, whether Intel employee or visitor, are masked up and shrouded in white fabric gowns. Michael Fendrick, engineering manager of the OTF Program Office at Intel, who led the tour, impressed upon the media that the extensive garments were not to protect us from anything in the facility, but to protect the facility from us, given the priority on keeping it free of any possible contaminants.

The Fab itself is a factory with an assembly line. However, It does not look a thing like Henry Ford’s assembly line, with rows of workers, each doing a specific part in the assembly. The key difference here is automation. The product is moved, at considerable speed, on racks on the ceiling. In the image on the right, the semi-conductor devices, which are white, can be seen along the ceiling. What can’t be seen in the picture is the speed at which they move about — a far cry from materials on the conveyor belts of old factory floors.

Once the device reaches the device to which is has been assigned, it is lowered onto a workstation, as can be seen in the picture on the right. What should be instantly noticeable is the absence of a team of engineers to do the work. Some of the work on the unit will be done by the machine at the workstation. Some is done by humans, although there are not a large number of them given the complexity of the work and the high value-add being created to the device.

The next two pictures on the right show an Intel engineer at work. Note that it is one person in each case, and that there are no other engineers present in the pictures at all.

Fab 52 and Fab 62 have a scheduled completion data for some time in 2024.