Intel delays launch of product at Kildare unit
Microchip maker Intel is sending up to 600 Irish staff home early from training in the US after deciding to delay the introduction of a new product at its Kildare facility.
The decision has sparked fears among the 4,500 workers at Intel’s Irish plant – the Republic’s biggest private-sector employer – for the long-term future of their jobs.
Earlier this year, Intel chief executive Paul Otellini announced the Leixlip factory was one of three selected to produce its next generation 14 nanometer microchips, known within the group as the “1272 process”.
The news was seen as critical to securing the Irish plant and its jobs. The company is refitting two plants at its Leixlip site in preparation for the new technology.
A slowdown in demand has prompted Intel to delay the introduction of 1272 manufacturing to its Irish subsidiary by six months, pushing it out to late next year.
It has also told the 600 Irish staff working on assignment in Arizona and New Mexico, that they are being sent home in December, several months ahead of schedule.
The Irish staff are getting experience on the tools used in the 1272 process and were due to return home at various stages next year. A number of Intel workers said yesterday that there is a fear that the delay means Leixlip will not get to produce the next generation of the firm’s microchips.
They warned that this could threaten its status within the group as a high-volume manufacturing plant and ultimately throw a question mark over its future.
Leixlip lost out on the last generation 1270 and is now solely engaged in manufacturing the older 1265 technology, which is also produced in China.
Intel recently spent $3.5 billion (€2.75 billion) on a new plant in Oregon, prompting speculation that the 1272 chip will only be made in the US. “The new process might never start outside the US and 1265 is not going to last forever. So where does that leave Ireland?” said one Irish worker.
However, the company said that its “overall plans” to introduce its new technology to Leixlip had not changed.
“We regularly make adjustments to our factory workforce to optimise the talent we have available, wherever the need arises and dependent on economic condition,” said Intel Ireland.
The refurbishment of the older plants at Leixlip is continuing. Some of the tools needed for the new technology are understood to be in place at the Kildare site.