LEIXLIP, Ireland Intel's wafer fab campus here is still on course to run a 14-nm FinFET manufacturing process despite the return to Ireland of a large number of workers that had been on assignment at Intel sites in the U.S. for training, according to the general manager of Intel Ireland.
When asked if Intel Ireland was still planning to introduce a 14-nm FinFET manufacturing process or tri-gate as Intel calls it at Leixlip in 2013, Eamonn Sinnott, vice president and general manager of Intel Ireland, said there is no delay and no change to the process introduction schedule in Ireland. However, Sinnott declined to give any indication of what schedule, if any, is in place.
The Irish Times recently reported that Intel was sending up to 600 Irish staff home early from production training in the U.S. after deciding to delay the introduction of the P1272 14-nm process at Fab 24 in Leixlip. The newspaper reported that the ramp of 14-nm production in Ireland had been pushed out six months to late 2013, attributing the delay to a slowdown in demand rather than technical problems. Intel is also planning to ramp P1272 at Fab D1X in Oregon and at Fab 42 in Arizona.
"The sending home is not related to plans to introduce 14-nm," Sinnott said during a press tour of the Leixlip campus. He added: "Paul Otellini [CEO of Intel] has identified Intel Ireland on the roadmap for the introduction for 14-nm."
At present Fab 24 is manufacturing a variety of logic chip sets on 65-nm CMOS process technology, a mature technology for Intel that could be phased out relatively soon. Intel's Fab 24 is running the same process as Intel's Fab 68 in Dalian, China. The introduction of a leading-edge process, such as the P1272 14-nm FinFET process, is clearly fundamental to maintaining Leixlip as an Intel chip manufacturing site. A large sign was noticeable in communal area of Fab 24 that said: "Our chance to shine 14-nm."
Eamonn Sinnott, general manager of Intel Ireland, discusses the history of the Leixlip wafer fab campus.
However, Intel Ireland is still conducting a $500 million refurbishment to upgrade the former Fab 14 to being capable of production on 300-mm wafers and to link it to Fab 24 with an "air-bridge." The bridge provides for one continuous clean environment extending from Fab 24 to what was Fab 14 allowing wafers to be moved between what were separate cleanrooms.
When the $500 million refurbishment of Fab 14 was announced in January 2011 it was described as a two-year project that would create about 200 long-term technical jobs once completed.
Meanwhile Fab 10, the first wafer fab constructed on the Leixlip campus back in 1991, has been decommissioned and stripped back to a bare shell. Fab 10 is mothballed for now although Intel staff said they are hopeful that the building can be recycled in a similar manner to the way in which the Fab 14 shell is being recycled.
Intel declined to say how many direct employees it has working on chip manufacture at Leixlip, at present.
I can only report what the executives say.
You say no Intel 14-nm parts will ship in 2013 but the end of the 2013 is 12 months away. We will have to wait and see.
And is it a case of Intel can't make 14-nm chips or is choosing to slow down the process introduction because of market issues it sees around uncertainty for its favored computer form factors?
Pulling the engineers home and claiming no 14nm slip is like the other Intel manager saying
"foundry is dead" while Intel is trying to get into foundry business
Many source and data points suggest Intel 14nm is 6 months to 1 year late. No parts will ship in 2013 (original plan on paper)
You may have put your finger on it.
And the issue remains that the longer Leixlip is only running a 65-nm process and does not get P1272 the more chance senior Intel management has to change their mind.
That said Intel Ireland has won a number of manufacturing excellence awards within Intel and did management to beat out Intel Israel for the chance to run P1272. So probably Leixlip deserves its "chance to shine."
There seems to be a shift at Intel from CPUs for PCs to SoCs for Mobiles. 14 nm process may have to be reoptimized for SoCs ( analog, I/O,.. ). This might take some time. Perhaps not much point in keeping 600 Irish stuck in the Desert ( AZ ) during the Holidays while all this goes on.
Not sure about that.
The workers there know that work is pressing on to finish the re-commissioning of Fab 14, which will probably just be labeled as part of Fab 24.
But what they don't know so well is how an incoming CEO at Intel will regard Intel Ireland.
One way that what Eamonn Sinnott said makes sense is if there is NO timetable for when Leixlip starts running the 14-nm FinFET process.
It is just there to follow on when the two U.S. foundries are maxxed out.
In which case, sending a significant part of a work force in training home before the training is complete cannot be related to a delay as without a timetable you cannot have a delay.
And even if Intel started to have second thoughts about ramping 14-nm at Leixlip they would not stop the fab shell commissioning work. Having started they more or less have to finish the work even if they choose to delay putting equipment in.