Intel has opened its most advanced chip manufacturing facility worldwide at its Leixlip campus, doubling manufacturing capacity in Ireland.
The opening of the new €17 billion facility, Fab 34, marks the first time that the technology has been used for high-volume mass production in Europe and paves the way for Intel’s growth in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), advanced mobile networks and autonomous driving.
Four years in the making, Fab 34 this week began producing wafers using Intel 4 technology, which uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. The process transfers patterns to a silicon wafer, creating the blueprints for integrated circuits.
The EUV system allows the company to print circuitry smaller and more precisely than before, and delivers significant improvements in performance and power efficiency.
Speaking at the opening of the facility, Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger said the company was just getting started, and dubbed Ireland the “silicon isle” producing a “critical chip” for the company.
“It’s the most advanced PC chip that we’ve ever produced, that will enable AI everywhere. And who is at the centre of it? Ireland,” he said. “Ireland is the centre of the semiconductor ecosystem. This is a proud day.”
The opening of the facility is another step in Intel’s plan to deliver five process nodes in four years, which was announced by Mr Gelsinger in 2021. The first step, Intel 7, has already been completed, with Intel 4 the second milestone. Intel 3, the next generation of technology, is “manufacturing ready” and will also be produced at the Irish plant.
Mr Gelsinger said the investment also continued Intel’s commitment to Europe, sitting alongside investments in Germany and Poland to create an end-to-end semiconductor manufacturing chain in Europe.
“Intel’s Ireland operations are a cornerstone of our global manufacturing footprint and an important part of building an end-to-end semiconductor manufacturing value chain in Europe,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, executive vice-president and chief global operations officer at Intel.
“As we continue to advance our €17 billion investment, this marks a significant milestone and a win for our Ireland operations as it brings Intel’s latest and greatest Intel 4 technology, utilising EUV, to Fab 34, Ireland and Europe.”
Dr Ann Kelleher, executive vice-president and general manager of technology development at Intel, said the opening of the new facility was “a landmark” for Intel and the semiconductor industry. But the company is forging ahead with new plans.
“We are working on the future,” said Dr Kelleher, “and we have a pipeline. We are driving to hit one trillion transistors in a product by 2030. That’s not a small march ahead of us but I know we can do it.”
The announcement was welcomed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, but he also sounded a note of warning over subsidies. Speaking at the launch, Mr Varadkar said he would advocate that Ireland “avoid subsidy wars, which also erode competitiveness and cost taxpayers more money in the long run”.