Intel?s $2.5 billion investment in a new fabrication plant (Fab 14)in Dublin will produce .35 micron processors on 12-inch silicon wafers, it emerged last week. At the same time it appeared that a change last year in its manufacturing plans was partially to blame for plummeting memory prices earlier this year.
When 12-inch fabrication comes onstream with .35 micron technology, it will give Intel bigger yields and faster technology for its forthcoming Klamath and Deschutes multiprocessor technology.
Frank McCabe, vice president at Intel Ireland, refused to either confirm or deny the plans or to discuss the technology. He said:"Fab 14 will be a state-of-the art fab. It will clearly produce wafers substantially less than .6 micron [density]. At some point the industry is looking at 12-inch but I can?t comment at what point it comes onstream."
He said that construction at the plant will finish at the end of next year and production will start in 1998. Intel is building another fab of the same type in parallel, in Israel.
Intel revealed that this time last year it changed its motherboard production plans from forward forecast to a build-to-order model. Jimmy McGrath, customer services manager at the Irish plant, said: "In late 1995 we embarked on a build-to-backlog programme. We now only build to order."
He said building to forecast had dangers in the market. "If you build to forecast you can get caught with inventory. We?ve faced the same challenges as everybody else in the industry." That meant Intel, like other major vendors, had a large quantity of memory it had to dispose of rapidly.
Memory dealers and distributors said at the beginning of this year that one reason for the slump in prices was Intel disposing of its stock.
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