Chip fab is no small fry

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Intel's newly inaugurated Fab 28 may be the place where the firm’s smallest 45nm chips are produced, but there is nothing very small about the fab itself.

Costing over US$3.5 billion and sitting on 283 dunams of land (about 70- acres), the site boasts 20,000 square meters of clean rooms, 770,000 metres of cable (1.7 times the entire length of the state of Israel), 350 tons of additional cables and accessories and 45,000 light fixtures producing 1.8 million watts (the equivalent of lighting five football stadiums).

The new fab, built on what the mayor of Kiryat Gat described as formerly having been “nothing but a pit”, has been set up right next to Intel's old Fab 18, now belonging to Intel spin-off company Numonyx, the flash memory maker.

Head of Intel Israel, Maxine Fassberg, noted that fab 28 was built to accommodate 2,000 people, was "unparalleled in Israel", and that it should be able to "deliver US$10 million worth of silicon wafers a day" at full production.

Intel currently counts about 7,300 employees in Israel, but Fassberg outlined company plans to launch what she called “a wide ranging recruitment initiative” for over 1200 “engineers and practical engineers from various hi-tech fields”.

At the opening event, Intel’s spinners waxed lyrical about the fab being one of Intel's three most modern facilities in the world and the fact that the company had made every effort to make it environmentally friendly.

We’re not so sure about “every effort”, however, because when asked by the INQ whether the fab used solar power - bearing in mind it is situated bang in the middle of the Israeli desert - we were told “not yet”.

Still, the company may be able to cough up for some solar panels soon, especially since Intel reckons its Israeli exports added up to the grand total of US$1.54 billion last year. In fact, so confident is Chipzilla about its new operations that it has estimated Fab 28 will be able to boost Israel's GDP by two per cent - single handedly!

As well as boasting about the oodles of cash the company would be making out of Fab 28, Intel Israel’s execs laid it on thick when it came to talking about community support programmes and educational initiatives.

Fassberg explained that Intel invested a significant amount of money in Israel’s education and higher education in order to help create the next generation of Intel’s “human capital”.

So far, Intel Israel’s “human capital” seems to be paying off for the firm, with Israeli development centres taking the credit for a plethora of Intel’s core technologies, including the processor for the first personal computer, MMX technologies (which form the base of the Pentium processor), platforms for the Intel Core 2 Duo processor, the first Ethernet controller, the first fast Ethernet and the first wireless LAN.

Intel also says its Israeli engineers are the ones spearheading the company’s Wimax development, and engineers down at Fab 28 are busy chipping away, manufacturing the company’s next-generation processors using hafnium-based 45nm technology on wafers 300mm in diameter.
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