SAN FRANCISCO.- In the latest display of its manufacturing might, Intel opened a $3 billion factory in Arizona on Thursday, widening its lead over Advanced Micro Devices in the industry’s switch to a new chip-making technique.
The factory, called Fab 32 and located in Chandler, just south of Phoenix, is Intel’s first plant dedicated to churning out microprocessors with an average size of 45 nanometers, 45-billionths of a meter, down from the current standard of 65 nanometers.
Intel and AMD are spending heavily to outfit their factories with the cutting-edge equipment and technologies needed to make denser chips, and Intel is at least six months ahead.
Intel is drawing on its deeper financial resources to fund its more rapid changeover. The company, whose $150 million market value is 21 times bigger than AMD’s, plans to spend up to $8 billion on upgrading or building factories for the new chips. That figure includes the Arizona factory, up to $3.5 billion for a new factory in Kiryat Gat, Israel, and $1.5 billion to retool an existing plant in New Mexico, both of which are to be ready next year.
AMD is retooling one of its factories in Dresden, Germany, to handle the new technology. The company has not given a cost for its transition.
The transistors on such chips are so small that more than 30 million can fit onto the head of a pin. How small they are is critical to the fight between Intel and AMD, because having more transistors on a single slice of silicon raises performance while lowering manufacturing costs.
Intel’s new factory has more than 1,000 workers and its products will go on sale Nov. 12. AMD is aiming for the middle of next year to roll out chips based on its own new technique, developed in partnership with IBM, but it has not provided more specifics.
The battle over manufacturing technology amplifies the competition between Intel, the world’s No. 1 maker of microprocessors, and AMD, which is No. 2.
“Customers buy much more than nanometers,” said Gary Silcott, an AMD spokesman. “We may be behind certain companies by a few months in terms of introducing 45-nanometer, but we’re way ahead in a number of critical design features. We think we’re in a very competitive position.”
Intel’s lead further pressures AMD as it struggles to emerge from a deep financial funk. AMD has lost $1.61 billion through the first nine months of the year on sales of $4.24 billion.
Intel, meanwhile, is thriving, racking up $4.77 billion in profit on $27.6 billion in sales over the same period.
Fuente: International Herald Tribune