GlobalFoundries is undergoing another expansion of its Fab 8 computer chip manufacturing complex in Malta as it prepares to produce the next generation of microprocessors for smartphones and tablets.
The company says it needs to add six 3,000-ton chillers and six cooling towers, as well as a high-voltage electrical yard and a bulk gas yard to accommodate new types of manufacturing equipment — known as “tools” in the industry — being installed at its $2 billion manufacturing development lab, known as the Technology Development Center.
The lab is expected to be used by a new partnership between GlobalFoundries and Samsung to make next-generation chips for smartphones and tablets, with Apple considered to be the main target.
GlobalFoundries is in the second year of a $10 billion expansion of Fab 8, which employs 3,000 people. The TDC is going to be used by GlobalFoundries to develop cutting-edge manufacturing processes for its customers.
GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis Bullard said Tuesday that the new cooling towers and transformers are needed because of the new set of tools being installed in the TDC. Computer chip tools use a tremendous amount of water, gases and chemicals as they process silicon wafers into computer chips.
“As our business continues to grow, we are planning to expand the Fab 8 campus to support additional customer demand and new tool requirements from the new leading-edge technology offered at Fab 8,” Bullard said.
GlobalFoundries has to get the town of Malta to amend the site plan for Fab 8 to allow for the additional construction. An application that will be presented to the town Planning Board Tuesday says the new utility upgrades “are needed in order to address the increased utility requirements for a new toolset” at the TDC.
The GlobalFoundries partnership with Samsung will focus on chip manufacturing at the 14-nanometer level, which is one step ahead of the 20-nanometer architecture used in the current iPhone 6. The smaller architecture is expected to bring increased capabilities and reduced costs, and the two companies have already started joint production in both Austin and Malta.
The 14-nanometer ramp-up is so complex and time-consuming, however, that GlobalFoundries has been storing some of the new tools in a local warehouse until they are needed.
Some industry analysts have suggested the storage plan means there are problems with the 14-nanometer plan, but GlobalFoundries has denied any problems.
“A key part of the strategy is to order tools ahead of facility readiness to enable the fastest possible ramp,” a company spokesman told the Times Union last month. “Due to the large number of tools coming in, we have our vendors stage these tools at a nearby warehouse to facilitate a fast install.”