Construction has started on a $2.3 billion expansion of the manufacturing clean room at GlobalFoundries’ Fab 8 computer chip plant.
The expansion — which will increase Fab 8’s clean room from its current 210,000 square-feet to 300,000 square-feet — is timed for chip production to start in the spring of 2014.
The expansion will allow Fab 8 to process 60,000 wafers — the 300mm disks from which computer chips are cut — per month.
“It won’t be the largest clean room in the world, but it will be one of the largest,” said GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis Bullard.
An industry publication last month identified GlobalFoundries as the fastest-growing chipmaker in the world. Fab 8’s first section is only now going into full production, after more than three years of construction and testing.
Fab 8 is GlobalFoundries’ only U.S. plant and is considered its most advanced. The Silicon Valley-based company also produces chips in Dresden and Singapore.
The company announced plans for the expansion in June 2010, without saying when it would happen. Company officials for the first time this week said work has started, and outlined the anticipated construction schedule.
The expansion will increase the total investment at Fab 8 to $6.9 billion, add 300 to 400 employees to the permanent payroll, and create up to 1,000 construction jobs. It will bring the total permanent workforce at the plant in the Luther Forest Technology Campus to more than 2,000.
“It’s a pretty significant construction project,” Bullard said.
Turner Construction, a national contractor with an Albany office, is serving as general contractor, Bullard said. Up to 200 construction workers are on site now, but the number will increase over the next year.
Space for future expansion was included at the back of the building when the basic shell of Fab 8 was being built in 2010-11, but left empty.
“It’s really just a concrete shell,” said Geoffrey Goff, GlobalFoundries’ construction manager.
This fall, contractors began moving earth in anticipation of expanding the utility buildings that support Fab 8. The central utility building will be enlarged, a new electrical services building will be built, and additional capacity will be added in the gas yard.
Goff said concrete foundation work has just started, and erection of steel will begin in February.
“What’s happening now is they’re doing all the preparation for the ancillary buildings,” Bullard said.
Work to fit up the 90,000 square feet of additional clean room will also be starting, with installation of the expensive manufacturing tools beginning in early 2014. Chip production would start later that year.
The plant currently produces chips with 32- and 28-nanometer circuits, but the new space will allow production of even smaller circuits — 20-nm chips and the new 14-nm “XM” chips developed at Fab 8. Volume production of 14-nm chips will start in 2014, according to industry reports.