What's The Future Of The Intel New Mexico Site

Intel outside by cjc4454 on flickr
Intel outside by cjc4454 on flickr
Intel outside by cjc4454 on flickr

An article in the Albuquerque Journal “Intel’s N.M. future” looks at the Intel Rio Rancho site’s comparison to other state and it’s possibility of building out to support Intel’s latest technology.

Now, with Moore’s law still pushing Intel to double down, or perhaps double up, on the number of transistors it crams onto each chip, New Mexico is vying for the next round of investment in factory upgrades to produce smaller transistors, measured in nanometers.

The plant was last upgraded in 2009 to go from 45-nanometer transistors on chips to 32 nanometers. But that means today Rio Rancho is two cycles behind the curve, since Intel is already producing 22-nanometer chips at other factories, and the company is building manufacturing capacity for 14-nanometer chips at its plants in Arizona and Ireland.

“The next node is 10 nanometer, and no decision has been made yet about where that will be,” said Kirby Jefferson, who became Intel’s Rio Rancho site manager in May. “New Mexico could be 10 nanometers, but next after that is seven nanometers, and maybe New Mexico could be the place for that.”

Another article on the Albuquerque Journal “Intel’s RR plant still viable” that came out at the same time wonders what if Intel’s New Mexico site doesn’t get any new technology.

It’s a question that surfaces in conversations at coffee shops and board rooms in the Albuquerque metropolitan area: Will Intel Corp. invest in upgrades at its plant in Rio Rancho to produce next-generation technology or, as the chips it now produces here become older and less useful, will the Rio Rancho factory wither up and go away?

But the man now running the show in Rio Rancho, site manager Kirby Jefferson, says that kind of talk is premature, because even without upgrades for newer technology, the plant will have plenty of work for years to come.

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What's Going On At The Arizona Intel Site?

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The Oregonian speculates “Intel activity slows in Arizona amid slack demand“.

The company has slowed the installation of production tools at its nearly complete, $5 billion Fab 42 near Phoenix (a fab is the industry’s term for a chip factory), according to Intel suppliers and contractors in Oregon.

These personnel, who asked not to be identified because of their relationship with Intel, say some tools appear to be idle in Arizona. Other tools have been redirected to the new D1X research fab in Hillsboro, which opens its first, $3 billion phase late this year.

When Intel announced plans to build Fab 42 two years ago, it said the Arizona facility would be complete in 2013. That’s still the timeline, according to corporate spokesman Chuck Mulloy — but he wouldn’t say when the facility will begin making high volumes of chips.

Intel And Apple Getting Along Fine

Reuters has an article titled “Intel eyes Apple as it maps its future

Tom Kilroy, a senior vice president at Intel, told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York on Wednesday that the runaway success of the iPad and other Apple products shapes how Intel thinks about future devices and the chips that will power them.

“We work very closely with them and we’re constantly looking down the road at what we can be doing relative to future products. I’d go as far as to say Apple helps shape our roadmap,” Kilroy said.

“Apple — they push us hard,” he said.

FTC Sues Intel

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The US Federal Trade Commssion is joining the EU and going after Intel on antitrust charges. Updated: link and text changed to the FTC’s website.

The Federal Trade Commission today sued Intel Corp., the world’s leading computer chip maker, charging that the company has illegally used its dominant market position for a decade to stifle competition and strengthen its monopoly.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Intel has waged a systematic campaign to shut out rivals’ competing microchips by cutting off their access to the marketplace. In the process, Intel deprived consumers of choice and innovation in the microchips that comprise the computers’ central processing unit, or CPU. These chips are critical components that often are referred to as the “brains” of a computer.

Intel responds. Updated: Link changed to Intel’s official press release.

“Intel has competed fairly and lawfully. Its actions have benefitted consumers. The highly competitive microprocessor industry, of which Intel is a key part, has kept innovation robust and prices declining at a faster rate than any other industry. The FTC’s case is misguided. It is based largely on claims that the FTC added at the last minute and has not investigated. In addition, it is explicitly not based on existing law but is instead intended to make new rules for regulating business conduct. These new rules would harm consumers by reducing innovation and raising prices.”

Article On Intel's Fab 11X Construction In Rio Rancho New Mexico

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New Mexico Business Weekly has an article on Intel’s Fab 11X build out. This is the factory I work for.

When Intel Corp. finishes upgrading its chip-making factory in Rio Rancho next year, it will operate one of the world’s largest clean rooms.

The company started a $2.5 billion upgrade to its Fab 11X manufacturing complex early this year to produce Intel’s next generation, 32 nanometer chip technology. The new chips are smaller and faster and consume less energy than Intel’s current 45 nanometer chip technology.

When the upgrade is complete, Fab 11X will include 400,000-square-feet of clean room space, said Tim Hendry, vice president of the Intel Technology Manufacturing Group and the Fab 11X plant manager.

“It will be the largest clean room operated by Intel globally, and one of the largest in the world in general,” Hendry said. “The corridor that runs along the outside edge of the clean room is a quarter-mile long.”

Sometimes I have to walk the distance of that factory frequently. It’s a good way to get exercise. Read the whole article at New Mexico Business Weekly.

ArsTechnica On Intel Making Batteries

I love ArsTechnica, but I have to question part of an article that Jon Stokes wrote today about Intel making car batteries.

I bring this up because Intel doesn’t actually make as many chips over here as they used to. Most of the company’s sales are overseas (Asia is the biggest market), so that’s where a large and growing percentage of its workforce is, as well. The company’s pronounced shift in moving jobs abroad has been a sore spot for American Intel employees over the past decade, but I hear that, internally, the Intel top brass makes no bones about the fact that they have no qualms about moving the plants closer to the customers.

I am employed by Intel in the manufacturing side of their business. I don’t pretend that I know everything that is going on but I’m pretty sure this part of the article is incorrect. Most of Intel’s manufacturing is in the United States with the rest in Ireland and Israel. The only Asian capacity is in China and it hasn’t finished construction.

I also don’t know anything about Intel replacing manufacturing capacity in the US with factories outside of the US. My opinion: It costs billions of dollars to build a factory, Intel isn’t about to move capacity from existing locations to overseas unless there’s economic reasons to do so and highly skilled worker base. Just because the customers are there doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.

As far as Intel making batteries? I have to agree with the rest of the article. It’s better if Intel invest in battery tech R&D rather than try it themselves. Not that I wouldn’t love to see Intel broaden out in other ventures. Intel has failed at every attempt to make non microchip businesses (see LCOS and the watches they made that I can’t find a link to) as profitable as chips and top management knows that.

Intel Will Upgrade Rio Rancho Plant

Intel Corp. said on Monday it will spend $1 billion to $1.5 billion to retool a factory in New Mexico, which will start to make chips with cutting-edge 45-nanometer-wide transistors in the second half of 2008.

The factory to be renovated in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, is known as Fab 11X and will be the fourth Intel plant to use 45-nanometer technology, which includes new materials that boost chip efficiency by cutting leakage of electrical current.

My employment is secure.

Here’s a little bit more information about the IRB that was used to fund this upgrade. Looks like there’s some money left in the pot.