Fab 34 in Ireland this month reached an important milestone in the Intel 4 journey when it began running its First Full Loop silicon. This means that the fab has begun the process of running qualification silicon wafers from start to finish through consecutive process steps in the cleanroom. This is a key step in the preparation toward ramping full production silicon.
Work on Fab 34 began in 2019. The factory, which represents an investment of 17 billion euros ($18.5B USD), doubles Intel manufacturing space in Ireland and is the company’s first high-volume manufacturing location for the production of Intel 4 products. The process development and early manufacturing of Intel 4 is performed in Oregon.
Before reaching the milestone of First Full Loop, Fab 34 had been focused on running level one diagnostics across segments of the production line, validating that each segment meets the required and expected parameters and cross-referencing the findings with Intel’s development fab in Oregon. With the commencement of the First Full Loop, the focus shifts to the entire fab production line and the seamless movement of qualification silicon through each sequential step. This is Intel’s first full loop in high volume to include extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography processing steps. The lithography process is a critical element of production in which patterns are transferred to a silicon wafer, creating the blueprints for our integrated circuits. While lithography scanners have been an integral part of making microchips for many years, EUV scanners can print circuitry smaller and more precisely than anything that has come before. By using a 13.5 nanometre wavelength light, we can now print smaller features and cut down on the number of overall manufacturing steps required.
The arrival of the First Full Loop is an important moment that ushers the way for products such as Meteor Lake to begin production later this year. Intel's unique process innovations and approach to EUV with the Intel 4 process keep Intel on track to deliver five nodes in four years and regain process leadership by 2025.
The First Full Loop is a complex process that requires synchronised efforts from multiple teams, each contributing their unique expertise to ensure that every step is aligned perfectly with targets. Members of the Ireland team have been working in the technology development facility in Oregon to prepare for the proliferation of this technology.
Fab 34 is excited to take one step closer to delivering Intel 4 products to our customers.