SAN FRANCISCO - Amid a flurry of speculation, Intel Corp. confirmed that its new fab in the United States is being constructed for the 450-mm wafer era.
The recently-announced fab will be 450-mm compatible, but it could also support 300-mm tools, said Mark Bohr, Intel Senior Fellow and director of process architecture and integration at Intel. If the 450-mm tools are not ready, Intel could use 300-mm machines in the new fab, it was noted.
As reported, Intel will build a new R&D wafer fab in Hillsboro, Ore., and upgrade other existing U.S. facilities for 22-nm production at a total investment of between $6 billion and $8 billion.
The new development fab in Oregon, to be known as D1X, is slated for R&D startup in 2013. Speculation that Intel was plotting a new fab at its Ronler Acres campus in Hillsboro has been building for weeks. Some speculated that the facility would be a 300-mm or even 450-mm production fab. But Intel described the facility as just a ''development fab.''
One analyst recently decribed the fab as ''450-mm ready,'' meaning that it will be constructed to support 450-mm tools-if or when the machines are ready.
Intel confirmed Tuesday (Dec. 7) that D1X is being readied for 450-mm. ''Intel is very interested in 450-mm,'' Bohr told EE Times. ''D1X is being (contructed) to be compatible with 450-mm.''
The fab tool community is also warming up to 450-mm. At one time, they did not want to devise 450-mm tools, because the cost is too high.
Now, there is a different story in the market. "I sense that some of the equipment vendors are interested in 450-mm,'' he said.
The 450-mm activity is heating up. ''I was surprised to see that that it’s just not the SIT consortia (Samsung, Intel, and Toshiba) that are now getting behind this technology. For the first time, I heard chip executives outside these three move from a position of never to 'not a question of if, but when,' '' said G. Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSI Research Inc., in a recent report. ''Right now, more than 90 percent of the equipment supply base is involved in some form of 450-mm development, though most these still hold public positions of never.''
Still, there’s a lot of work to be done in the 450-mm tool arena, he said. 450-mm fabs could appear in 2018-at the earliest, he added.