Do you know the structure of Intel chip factories and what are their components? In this article, we are going to take a trip to one of the factories of this company called Fab 42, which is one of the most equipped chip factories in the world, and see how Intel microprocessors are produced in this factory.
The Fab 42 plant is located on one of Intel’s new campuses, the Ocotillo campus in Chandler, Arizona. The campus is located next to the older Intel campus in Chandler, where Intel has a total of 12,000 employees; Of course, Intel’s Fab 52 and Fab 62 factories are also being built at the same location, which is why the company is hiring 3,000 new staff.
Sapphire Rapids server processors
The Sapphire Rapids server processor is set to ship in 2022 with Intel’s Xeon server chip. The chip consists of four chipsets (chip sets) including the CPU engine and four simple high-bandwidth storage memory modules. All components are connected using Intel Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMDIB) technology (or Intel EMDIB). This packaging technology was created to compete with similar technologies offered by TSMC and Samsung.
Meteor Lake test chip wafer
At this point, the surface of a 300mm wafer is covered with hundreds of Meteor Lake test chips. At this stage, the top layer of chipsets is connected to a base layer during a process called dicing, then the wafer is divided into separate processors (such as when something is shredded).
Intel Sapphire Rapids wafer
The Sapphire Rapids, Intel’s Xenon server chip to be launched in 2022, has four processor motors and four high-bandwidth storage modules with the configuration shown in the image above. In this image, you can see a wafer that has 8 of these chips on it, and each of these chips is called a chiplet. There are narrow rectangular spaces between the chiplets, which are actually EMIB connectors to connect the chiplets to each other. The importance of this packaging technology in the chip industry is increasing.
Ponte Vecchio processors
Intel’s Ponte Vecchio processors, due in 2022, will be the brainchild of the US Department of Energy’s Aurora supercomputer. Intel has delayed the development of this processor in the Argonne National Laboratory; But on the contrary, it claims that its maximum functionality has doubled compared to when it was being designed.
Ponte Vecchio processor chiplets
The Intel Ponte Vecchio processor is literally a technical component; Because it combines 47 separate pieces of silicone. Each chiplet is carefully connected to each other on one side with EMIB connectors on one side and pulled outwards, and pulled upwards on the other side by Intel Foveros connectors. Foveros demonstrate Intel’s ability in packaging technology. Intel relies on its rival TSMC’s technology to build GPU units at the heart of the processor.
Meteor Lake test chips
The Meteor Lake chip, a PC-specific chip to be launched in 2023, uses the second generation of Foveros packaging technology to use the chiplets as a stack in the full processor. Meteor Lake test equipment is used to ensure that Foveros technology is working properly and that there are no problems with adjustment or alignment or electrical connections.
Intel Rapid Ambassador Chiplets
Plastic-coated tubes containing the chiplets are airlifted from an Intel plant to Oregon and housed in CH-4 chip-making equipment. This equipment replaces each silicone component to build a larger processor.
Meteor Lake test chips
The Meteor Lake test chips are carefully placed next to each other on a 300 mm wafer. Some of the processor chips are individually connected to the base layer of the wafer, which is located below them. This chip for personal computers will be released in 2023. These test chips are used to evaluate the performance of Intel packaging technology, not to evaluate completed processors.
Packaging technology tests used on the Meteor Lake chip
As mentioned earlier, Meteor Lake chips are expected to be used in PCs in 2023. In this chip, several chiplets are combined with the benefit of Foveros packaging technology in a larger chip. This connector technology puts the chiplets together in vertical stacks and connects them together using fast data connections. In this part of the factory, the chiplets are attached separately to the base layer of the wafer below them to form interconnected chips.
Construction site of Intel Fab 52 and Fab 62 factories
Intel is also using the unused space on the old campus in Chandler and plans to build Fab 52 and Fab 62 plants there. The cost of building each of these two plants is $ 10 billion, and they will probably start operating in 2024. The two plants are expected to create 3,000 new employees, adding to Intel’s current 12,000 in Arizona.
Intel Street Signs on Fab 42
Intel Street Signs at Fab 42 on the Okotillo Campus near Phoenix with letters related to the chip industry such as Wafer Way, Angstrom Avenue, Cleanroom Corner, Transistor Terrace, Parkway Processor Parkway, Silicon Street and Tick-Tock Trail.
One-piece overlay covers (FOUPs) that carry Intel chips
Intel chip factories, known as Fabs, are extremely clean places; However, the chips in the one-piece coating, called FOUP, are used to move silicon wafers from one part of the production line to another in the factory. In the picture above, you can see two FOUPs that are installed in front of the chip-making equipment module.
Chip transfer roof system
Chip-making equipment in Fab, 12, 22, 32 and 42 factories is connected to a multi-kilometer-long roof transmission system, which is used to transport silicon wafer stacks using plastic sheaths.
Intel Ponte Vecchio processor
In the picture above, you can see four Intel Ponte VQU processors, which is a very large chip by chip standards. Each of these processors contains dozens of interconnected chiplets with a total of one billion transistors. The transistor is the main component of the data processor in the processor.
Mithir Lake experimental chips
In the image above, which is a close-up of the Mithir Lake experimental chips, each of the chiplets is clearly visible.
The first stage of the clean room: gloves
Immediately after entering the clean room, the factory staff removes two pairs of gloves from the wall of the gloves and quickly puts them on. The gloves worn on the first gloves are long enough to fully protect employees.
Fab 42 plant in Chandler, Arizona
The Fab 42 plant is a large factory located in Chandler, Arizona, associated with the older Fab 12, Fab 22 and Fab 32 plants. Intel has also begun construction of the Fab 52 and Fab 62 plants, which will start operating in 2024.
FOUBs in Fab Factory 42
Plastic sheaths from the Fab 42 factory, called FOUB, carry silicon wafer stacks from one section of the production line to another. A chip must complete hundreds of different stages of production to be complete.
Fab Infrastructure 42
The Fab 42 plant has a sophisticated infrastructure consisting of various components to produce a complete and flawless chip, including a power supply unit, a system to remove contaminants and excess particles with water, and a cooling system with air flow. A chip factory needs millions of liters of pure water for its daily operation. More than 34 million liters of water are consumed every day on the Okotillo campus. Intel is working on ways to make the amount of water it returns to the southern Arizona catchments more than the water used by its factories.
Peeling equipment Fab 42 Intel
One of the chip production steps in Fab 42 is the peeling step, in which the peeling equipment removes layers of silicon wafer material.
Chemical vapor storage equipment
Different steps must be taken to place different materials in silicon chips. The wafers are first exposed to a patterned beam of light to change their surface. Materials are then added to the surface of the wafer or materials are removed from the surface. Chemical vapor accumulation method is one of the methods of adding layers of material to the wafer surface.
Cleaning equipment Fab 42
Chemical cleaning is one of the steps that is repeated many times in the process of processing wafers and placing them inside the chip, and is one of the most important and necessary production steps. In this part of the production process, the plastic sheaths, after being filled with silicone wafers, are routed collectively to the cleaning devices.
Intel CH-4 factory for packing
The CH-4 plant was established in 1980 and has produced 80,286 chips. The plant is now a place for advanced packing of chiplets or connecting chiplets together to turn them into larger processors. Advanced packaging technology is Intel’s golden trump card to differentiate the brand from its chip competitors in the years to come.
Intel factory inspection station
Silicon wafers go through hundreds of production stages during the chip-making process, which takes three months, and are continuously evaluated and tested during these production stages. Most of the process of testing and testing these parts is done automatically; But at the final inspection station, the manpower also carefully examines the wafers. The wafer is purple and the green wafer is discarded after human inspection with an eye lens.