Intel is gearing up to make 0.13µm flash memories at its existing fabs in the Irish Republic, a project originally earmarked for a new plant being built alongside it.
The scheme extends the company's strategy to share equipment across logic and memory production, a process that Intel terms "capital fungibility".
Since 2000, when shared equipment represented 20% of the company's spend, Intel has been working to align processes so that now 70% of purchased equipment can be used for logic and flash.
The combined fabs in production at Leixlip, near Dublin — numbered 10 and 14 in Intel's list — will continue to make 0.18µm and 0.25µm logic devices, such as PC chipsets, SRAMs and embedded processors. But new equipment is being installed to handle the 0.13µm memories.
Bill Riley, Intel Ireland's public affairs manager, said: "A lot of the tools are shared between 0.18 and 0.25µm today. There will be some unique tools for 0.13µm, such as lithography and vapour deposition. But the back-end for flash remains aluminium metallisation, so that will be shared."
Fabs 10 and 14 have gradually been combined since Fab 14 opened in the late 1990s, using a cleanroom link.
Current capacity is 9500 wafer starts a week.
On Intel's 2000 timetable, the adjacent Fab 24, which resumed construction in late April, was to have kicked off with flash production on 200mm wafers, later moving to 300mm lines. Fab 24 is scheduled to open in early 2004 running a 300mm, 90nm process.
The company has not given a timetable of when flash production will start at Fab 10/14, but Riley says the introduction will be "fairly soon". A phased introduction at Ireland has been planned based on the theme of Flash Gordon, according to signs at the Irish plant. Initial production is slated to be 500 wafer starts a week.
Stacey Smith, Intel EMEA general manager, told an audience of analysts at the recent Prudential-Bache European Semiconductor Conference that the company aims to have 80% of its flash production on 0.13µm by the end of 2003. Intel has five flash-capable fabs with one, the D2 development fab in Santa Clara, already running the 0.13µm flash process.
The company started production at Fab 22 in Arizona last year. It is designed primarily to run 0.13µm flash memories, but is currently making processors. Fab 11 in New Mexico and Fab 15 in Oregon are expected to be running 0.13µm flash by the end of 2002, according to Intel's published fab list.