The Cooks Tour: Intel Fab 42

The Cooks Tour: Intel Fab 42

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Description: Intel Fab 42 is not just another new fab. Both it and D1X have been architected to take copy-exactly to a whole new level ..Construction sites are like fine wines, where the most discerning difference ..

Intelís Modular Approach ..Why Copy-Exactly at the Fab Level ...

 
Author: G. Dan Hutcheson (Fellow) | Visits: 16293 | Page Views: 59858
Domain:  High Tech Category: Semiconductors Subcategory: Manufacturing 
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Contents:
The Cooks Tour: Intel Fab 42
G Dan Hutcheson
January 19, 2012

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Intel Fab 42 is not just another new fab.
Both it and D1X have been architected to take copy-exactly to a whole new level. It's also being designed for easy and predictable transitions to new nodes and 450mm wafers with a modular strategy. But before we go into the strategy and tactics, let's go over the construction. Construction sites are like fine wines, where the most discerning difference is often in the price. The other thing to be wary of is not to get caught up in all the boy toys. Yes, big cranes and heavy equipment are the first things to grab your attention, but they'll be gone once a fab is truly operational. When it comes to Intel, there are two things to look for when touring their sites, because there are two things Intel is most serious about: planning and safety. This is where you'll see the biggest differences with other sites and

Intel Fab 42 under a classic Arizona sky.

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it's also proof that Intel is on its game, when it is doing something. So, I'll come back to these two themes several times. Now, let's take the tour. As I drove up to Intel's Fab 42, not surprisingly, I was first struck by the size and number of cranes used for its construction. It does look like most fabs in the midst of construction, with the difference seeming to be that this one was on turbo mode. There were lots of cranes and these were not all. This image was taken just before they assembled what is arguably the largest crane in the world: one that can lift 4000 tons. From a distance, the new fab looks huge compared to the existing site. This was in part because new fabs always look big next to old ones because processes are always getting more complex and thus, needing more tools. A second reason for its large size is the plan for 450mm compatibility. Process complexity and wafer size are why wafer fab floorspace has pretty much grown with wafer size over the years. The first fabs that processed 20mm wafers were little bigger than a home. By the time 150mm came about, you could fit a football field in one. Today's 300mm fabs are as big as shopping malls.

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Once on site, the most interesting things to note are the degree of exactly which Intel is applying to copy-exactly, and the attention to safety. This fab is following on the heels of D1X, with an intention of taking copyexactly to the next level: the entire facility. It's more than just using the same management team or the same A&E plan. Construction items like concrete molds are being transported down from Oregon for this project. So it's far more than just a draft board version of copy-exactly. Intel is levering cost down by reusing as

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much as possible from D1X and levering future revenue up by cloning the startup process, which will speed the output ramp. As for safety, you can see it has been very well thought out. I asked about protocols for crane operation, which can be incredibly dangerous. Especially when heavy items like concrete wall sections have to be lifted up and set in place. If not handled correctly, they often come crashing down and when they do, someone is usually killed. You can find plenty of videos by searching `crane crash' on YouTube. Cranes are on the edge of the envelope and the combination of unskilled operators and management that don't listen are a common cause of boom failures. Moreover, good operators are hard to find. Intel takes this very seriously, so they've brought in the best operators they can find. They won't start the day without making sure everything is right.

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A concrete wall gets hoisted during Intel's Fab 42 construction.

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The boom, arching across the lower half of the photo is a concrete boom pump.

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Another interesting factoid about modern fabs being played out here is that they use far more concrete than can be delivered via cement mixer trucks. Intel has two cement plants on site to deal with the heavy demand. They use concrete boom pumps which can pour more than a hundred cubic meters of concrete an hour. In contrast, cement mixer trucks typically have a capacity of just 6 cubic meters. Yet despite the fast pour rates and rush to finish the fab, the finished sections of concrete were amazingly clean. I had to search and search to find any void areas. I would argue that the concrete pour* quality at Fab 42 is the best I've ever seen in a fab, which speaks to Intel's focus on detail (*not to be confused with poor quality). When I visited, it was not going to be long before they started to drop in the roof trusses that seal off the fab and channel clean air into the clean room. They had been delivered for assembly and painted before being lifted into place. The size of Intel's Fab 42 trusses was striking. They are huge.

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A ceiling truss for Intel's Fab 42.

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As you stand there in front of one, taking it in, you realize the artistic beauty in the details.

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Construction art: close ups of a ceiling truss. Note how most of the nuts are aligned as if it were a Concours car engine.

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Above and below: molds assembled and rebar set in Intel Fab 42. Notice the good `housekeeping' on this site. An uncluttered site is a safer site. This reflects highly of the on-site management and worker safety discipline.

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Walking around the site, I was surprised to see hole covers painted red and green. Normally they are just bare wood with a load capacity painted on them.

Here's a safety innovation: Opening covers clearly marked with color to indicate load bearing capacity. That way, someone doesn't accidentally drive a forklift into a hole.

Intel found that it's much safer if they are colorfully painted and everyone understands the meaning of red and green. It's much less likely that a harried forklift driver will make a mistake and crash through a `foot traffic only' cover.

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A lot of safety is about mistake-proofing via physical barriers, like making it impossible to connect a silane tank to an oxygen line, or concessions to human cognition. This is a classic example of the latter: Color is more primal. Red triggers our survival instinct. Color works best in environments where action must be instantaneous, so cognition can be dealt with later. Written communication came millennia after humans learned red was what you saw just before a mouth bit into them. A sign has to be read, the information processed, and then a conscious decision made. Moving into the sub-fab shows both the quality of construction, good housekeeping, and more safety aspects. See the light reflecting off the ceiling in the first photo? That's the result of a very smooth concrete surface texture. On the safety side, each group of yellow jacks used to hold up hole covers above the ceiling is roped off with red rope and clear warning signs. The white signs denote pillar location in the architectural plan.

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The sub-fab.

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Each floor opening above is covered and these jacks hold up the covers, preventing falls. Note how they are roped off with clear warning signs.

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Water stations were regularly spaced and wellmarked at Intel's Fab 42. This is not just so that workers can find water and a trash can. It is highly visible so that equipment operators don't knock it over. Here they are pouring concrete into a mold to form a wall section.

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More on safety: hand rails on a temporary staircase with lighting. At a lot of sites, you don't even see a staircase � just a handmade ladder that people have to balance on as they step down.

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Overall, the attention to detail and safety on the construction site were the real standouts. I looked for subtle things and only found one small section of concrete (3-4 inches in diameter) that didn't fill correctly. I have never seen concrete so perfect on any site. On the safety side, the housekeeping at the site was superb and no expense was spared when a clearly safer solution was available. Accidents are called accidents because they are unexpected and not planned. That's why it is so easy to scrimp on safety. But this is bad management, because a single accident can be far more expensive than the cost of preventing it. How costly? Safety cost analysts have estimated that each stitch from an industrial accident costs more than $10K. That includes the lost time from the worker; project delay due to having to stop to deal with the emergency; plus the time lost from workers being off-task chatting it over, and increased insurance costs from the accident. So there are real business reasons to have a safe site over and above the humanitarian aspects of it. Safety has a high ROI.

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Intel's Modular Approach Looking at the photos, the site seems impressively large. But, this building is only one module, sized the same as Intel's D1X. The module is designed to be cloned multiple times per finished fab. That's why it takes copy-exactly to an extreme level. In doing this, Intel is breaking decades of common wisdom, which is what makes this particular fab so interesting. This is a bold approach because of the potential for inefficiency in a small modular approach. Normally fabs are built to a minimum size of 40K WSM and Gigafabs are in the 100K-plus WSM. This is done, in part, because efficiently sized fab support items have tended to come in big chunks of capacity. Since the module is on the small side, it means either Intel has made some significant breakthroughs in fab support systems or there's some level of built-in inefficiency when there are fewer completed modules.

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Intel is fully aware of this historical trade-off and makes a convincing argument that they've planned around it as best anyone can. They have done some jazzy things with the approach to the support system problem. Intel always costmodels the daylights out of things, so you can bet they have internal figures that show the savings from a modular system outweighs the added expense. One reason is that even when one builds a full-sized fab, the support systems are underutilized anyway, until all the tools are put in place and its capacity is maxed out. In between, what you have is mostly an empty facility -- all stranded capital. Moreover, you have to pay overhead to keep it maintained and somewhat operational. Stranded capital is a significant problem, since what typically happens in the industry is that new fabs get funded in an upturn and are finished in a downturn ... when they are not needed. Fabs have even been built that never went operational because of this problem. So the idea of a modular fab has always been a dream, since it would give capacity in smaller increments.

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Why Copy-Exactly at the Fab Level The need to transition a new fab in the future is something that is usually considered but seldom planned for. Building a new fab is enough of a job without having to plan for what it will need to be well out in the future. It's also not that important if all you need to do is build a single fab. But this time, Intel is building two: D1X and Fab 42. Now Brian Krzanich and his team have built plenty of fabs and transitioned even more. So that got them to asking, `what would happen if we applied copy-exactly to the entire fab?' More importantly, with 450mm looming, `how do we make it easier to transition the fab with minimal disruption to future production?' A third question they sought to answer in the new design was, `How can we do all this with less stranded capital during expansion phases?' They have answered all three by taking a modular approach to the fab.

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Applying copy-exactly to the entire fab: If you are building more than one fab and plan to build more, this makes absolute sense and it's easy for Intel to do. There are many benefits: � � � � Minimizes Architectural and Engineering (A&E) costs with a single design Minimizes start-up costs because everything is the same Time to revenue is faster Easier to permit

There are also plenty of benefits to a standardized modular fab: � � � � � � � 450mm transition can be done with more predictable results Capacity expansion can be better modulated to market demand Other modules will have no disruption from transition of one Empty floorspace minimized Training is faster and associated costs are lower Maintenance and support are more efficient Faster learning curves on preventative maintenance

All in all, it makes loads of sense.

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WildPhotons: what nature can teach you about life

A show does not come off the rails in a day. It is the cumulative of the many wrong turns.
Peter Schneider San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers Why it Works: It's a story of fragility and beauty enhanced brought forth by a soft focus of the background. Reference number: BA_11con_1126

follow Dan Hutcheson's photos on twitter @wildphotons see them all at flickr.com/photos/wildphotons/

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