Intel has opened a $3 billion factory expansion at its Ronler Acres campus in Hillsboro, Oregon. And it is renaming the campus in honor of Intel’s cofounder Gordon Moore.
The expansion of the D1X factory will enable Intel to expand its manufacturing with an additional 270,000 square feet of manufacturing space. And that will help the company keep on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology, company executives said in a press briefing.
In a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by senior government officials and community leaders, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger highlighted the company’s positive impact in Oregon and reiterated its commitment to U.S. leadership in semiconductor research and development (R&D). That’s important in a world where — thanks to the war in Ukraine — it’s important to have home-grown technology and manufacturing. Intel makes a variety of microprocessors in Oregon.
In honor of the site’s heritage of innovation, Intel also announced a new name for the nearly 500-acre campus: Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres. The new name recognizes the site’s unique contributions to driving Moore’s Law, Intel cofounder Gordon Moore’s 1965 prediction that has guided innovation in the semiconductor industry for more than 50 years.
“Since its founding, Intel has been devoted to relentlessly advancing Moore’s Law,” said Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, in a statement. “This new factory space will bolster our ability to deliver the accelerated process roadmap required to support our bold IDM 2.0 strategy. Oregon is the longtime heart of our global semiconductor R&D, and I can think of no better way to honor Gordon Moore’s legacy than by bestowing his name on this campus, which, like him, has had such a tremendous role in advancing our industry.”
Why it matters
Gordon Moore Park is the headquarters of Intel’s global Technology Development organization, which is responsible for advancing Moore’s Law by creating new transistor architectures, wafer processes and packaging technologies that underpin the company’s product roadmap and provide the foundation for applications ranging from personal computers to cloud infrastructure to 5G networks.
Sanjay Natarajan, senior vice president for Logic Technology Development at Intel, was one of the first workers at the Ronler Acres campus in 1996. The 450-acre campus is roughly the size of Portland’s downtown.
Regarding the campus name change, he said in a press briefing, “It’s a welcome change and some people have been saying it’s a little bit overdue. The last time we did something along these lines was 1992 when we named our headquarters after Bob Noyce.”
He added, “Gordon Moore has always been seen by the whole industry as one of the technology leaders of the semiconductor industry. And we at Intel thought that renaming the Ronler Acres campus after him was really the most appropriate way to honor him.”
Intel has one team of 10,000 employees, primarily based in Hillsboro, as part of its silicon process engineering organization. All told, Intel has 22,000 employees in Hillsboro across four campuses.
During the campus’s 25-year history, engineers and scientists there have continually faced — then overcome — the challenges posed by physics when the features on a chip shrink to the size of atoms, Intel said.
With inventions like high-k metal gate technology, tri-gate 3D transistors and strained silicon, Intel has consistently delivered foundational process innovations to maintain pace with Moore’s Law. It ran into some trouble a few years back and lost a lot of its advantage over rivals such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which makes chips for rivals such as Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia. Gelsinger has pledged to regain that advantage by 2025.
“These groundbreaking process innovations all originated right here in Oregon. With the new expansion of our D1X factory, Oregon is well-positioned to deliver the next generation of leading-edge technologies,” said Ann Kelleher, executive vice president and general manager of Technology Development, in a statement. “Semiconductors are fundamental to U.S. technology leadership, our economy, and supply chain resilience. Intel is the only company in the world with the majority of its process and packaging R&D and high-volume leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing in the United States.”
Last year, Intel unveiled one of the most detailed process technology roadmaps in its history. The company has moved to an accelerated pace of innovation to enable an annual cadence of improvements, leveraging breakthrough technologies that will power new products through 2025 and beyond.
Intel’s latest innovations include RibbonFET, the company’s first new transistor architecture in more than a decade. It has also created PowerVia, an industry-first new backside power delivery method. And it is using for the first time its High NA EUV next-generation lithography.
“Intel is committed to getting back to leading the forefront of lithography,” said Ryan Russell, corporate vice president in the Logic Technology Group at Intel, in a press briefing. “D1X is not only the place where we develop the transistors and the interconnect technologies. Mod3 is going to be the home for the majority of the tooling that we’re purchasing and landing with the additional investment that was announced that Intel accelerated. Our implementation of EUV is already starting to show results.”
How it works
With “Mod3” — a more than $3 billion investment to expand D1X — Intel engineers now have an additional 270,000 square feet of clean-room space to develop next-generation silicon process technologies.
At any given time, multiple logic process technologies are in various stages of the development cycle in the D1X factory. The Technology Development team creates the baseline manufacturing technology required to bring innovations into the physical world.
New process technologies are then transferred identically from this central development factory in Oregon to Intel’s global network of high-volume manufacturing sites. After transfer, the network of factories and the development factory collaborate to continue driving operational improvements. This enables fast ramp of the operation, fast learning and better quality control.
“This is a $3 billion investment. And we certainly plan additional future investment after that,” he said. “It’s going to increase our clean-room capacity by about 270,000 square feet. It took about 11 million trade hours to build.”
The Intel 7 manufacturing process is in production already in Oregon. The Intel 4 manufacturing process will come next in the second half of this year, and the Intel 3 manufacturing will begin in the second half of 2023. Intel’s “angstrom era” begins in 2024 in the first half with Intel 20A, followed by Intel 18A in the second half of 2024. Intel has pulled that schedule in by half a year as it is moving along faster than expected.
Intel in Oregon
This latest expansion builds on Intel’s nearly 50-year history of investing in Oregon. Intel’s operations in Oregon — about 20 miles west of Portland — are its largest concentration of facilities and talent in the world.
Based on 2019 data, Intel’s most significant direct economic footprint is found in Oregon. With its employees, a vast network of local contractors and suppliers, capital investments, and other downstream impacts, Intel’s total annual impact is more than 105,000 jobs, more than $10 billion in labor income and $19 billion in gross domestic product.
Intel is asking the federal government to help subsidize some of its manufacturing costs via the Chip Act, a $52 billion stimulus bill working its way through Congress. Intel hopes it will level the playing field for American chip companies by providing incentives to build factories in the U.S.
Al Thompson, vice president of U.S. government relations at Intel, said in a statement that Intel broke ground in Oregon in 1974, and Intel has invested more than $52 billion in capital ever since. Overall, Intel has more than 100,000 employees and it hired 2,000 tech employees in 2021.
Russell said the company is also working closely with industry partners, from the equipment vendors to chip design tool software makers. Russell said a bunch of tech innovations came from the factories in Oregon.
“Our innovation in pursuit of Moore’s Law continues,” Russell said.
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