Intel has said it is leaving the shell of Fab 42 empty for now amid the slow down in the PC industry. That slowdown, prompted in part by consumers turning to smartphones and tablet computers, has adversely affected Intel's sales and manufacturing utilization.
The shell was completed in 2013 and was expected to start making chips using Intel's leading-edge 14nm FinFET process on 300-mm diameter wafers. The fab was also expected to be ready to transition to 450-mm diameter wafers as required.
However, no chipmaking equipment has been installed and no employees are working in the shell, which will remain mothballed for now. Fab 42 will be brought up at some point but the technologies that will be used and when it will become operational have not been decided, an Intel spokesperson told local media.
Intel announced plans to invest more than $5 billion on a wafer fab at its site in Chandler, Arizona, back in February 2011 and it was said that it would be the world's most advanced high-volume chip plant. President Obama visited the site in January 2012 and praised it as an example of renewed emphasis on U.S. domestic manufacturing.
Intel manufacturing is thought to be running at about 70 percent of capacity due to a protracted slow down in the PC market where Intel dominates. As a result Intel has opted to bring up 14nm manufacturing process technology at another wafer fab in Chandler, Fab 32, where the company is already running 22nm FinFET process.
One additional fact that remains unclear is whether the postponement of Fab 42 is good or bad news for Intel's Fab 24 in Leixlip near Dublin. As of mid-2013 Fab 24 was on course to be a production site for the 14nm process technology but probably some time after the process was established in the United States. There was no official timetable but Irish workers were being exhorted to work towards 14nm in 2014.
With the delay in Chandler that Irish goal could be in jeopardy, or Intel may prefer to bring up the process in multiple established fabs before facilitizing Fab 42.
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