Intel plans out 14nm shrink with Arizona facility

Chip giant Intel has announced plans to create a new semiconductor fabrication facility in Arizona, where it will start work on shrinking the process size to a minuscule 14nm, at a cost of around $5 billion.

The new facility, dubbed Fab 42, will be designed from scratch to produce Intel's next generation of processors on cost-effective 300mm wafer sizes - a move Intel hopes will help offset the inevitable drop in yield that comes in the early days of a process shrink.

The very public commitment to producing chips based on a 14nm process size, at a time when most of Intel's competitors are working hard to shrink to 28nm or 22nm, should help boost Intel's reputation in the industry following the embarrassing admission of a design flaw in its Cougar Point chipset series.

"The investment positions our manufacturing network for future growth," claimed Intel general manager Brian Krzanich at the announcement. "For Intel, manufacturing serves as the underpinning for our business and allows us to provide customers and consumers with leading-edge products in high volume."

Each reduction in process size allows semiconductor companies to pack more transistors in a smaller space, creating more powerful processors that consume less power. As the gaps between transistors shrink, however, the jump to the next process size becomes increasingly challenging.

If Intel's Fab 42 can give it a head start on 14nm chips, it will likely help fend off increasing competition from British mobile chip specialist ARM - and could even make Intel's Atom range a competitive option in the smartphone and tablet markets.

The company has not confirmed when it expects the plant to go live.

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