As the global semiconductor shortage rolls on, chipmakers are taking steps to expand their production capabilities. Intel in particular is currently undertaking an ambitious expansion operation. The company’s $7B Fab 34 construction project in Leixlip, Ireland has entered the tool outfitting stage which represents a significant milestone on the way to beginning production in 2023.
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The machine is the first of around 1200 machines to be installed, many of which cost millions of dollars apiece. The specific machine is known as a lithography resist track. It’s a part of Intel’s extreme ultraviolet (EUV) manufacturing and will be used to produce chips made with the Intel 4 production node (a rough equivalent to 7nm).
Work on Fab 34 has been underway since 2019 and the facility is set to go online in 2023. It’s just one part of Intel’s extremely aggressive expansion campaign. In addition to its Ireland expansion, the company is working on expanding production at its Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona facilities. That’s just the start. Intel is also planning a new $7B manufacturing facility in Penang, Malaysia and just days ago, it announced the construction of two $20B facilities in Ohio.
The ongoing chip shortage and concerns about over-reliance on Asian based manufacturing has prompted Intel to concentrate on US and EU based manufacturing. In fact, it’s become something of a national security issue. The US share of global semiconductor production has fallen from 37 percent to 12 percent over the last 30 years and it doesn’t want to cede even more to Asian manufacturers such as TSMC and Samsung. US companies including Intel, AMD and Nvidia among others are pushing for congress to approve funding for the CHIPS Act, which would put $52 billion toward domestic semiconductor production.
National security is one thing, but obviously it’s far more important to consider the sanity of PC gamers. All of these facilities are welcome, but they take a long time to go from breaking ground to moving products out the door. Once Intel’s Ireland expansion is complete and up and running, hopefully the worst of the shortages, and the damned pandemic itself will be behind us.
Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a store in a year or so and see shelves stacked with 14th Gen Meteor Lake CPUs, RTX 4080s and 7900XTs! Sorry, I was dreaming there for a second.