The new Intel CEO is doubling down on chip production in the US and Europe, a surprise bet that could please government officials worried about component shortages and dependence. factories in Asia.
Patrick Gelsinger, who took on the top job in February, said Tuesday that he plans to spend $ 20 billion on two new plants near existing facilities in Arizona. He also vowed that Intel would become a major chip maker for other companies, in addition to producing the microprocessors it has long designed and sold.
Intel has had a hard time developing new manufacturing processes that improve chip performance by packing many smaller transistors on each piece of silicon. Leading that costly miniature race has shifted to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC and Samsung Electronics, which have so-called chip manufacturing molding services for companies including Apple and Amazon. , Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices.
Several investors and analysts pushed Intel to cut or stop production in favor of external foundries, an approach adopted by most other chip companies to increase profits.
But the pandemic-induced shortage of semiconductors for cars, home appliances and other products underscores the important role chip factories play in supporting many sectors of the economy. . And in the wake of recent fears, concerns over Asian foundries proximity to China have prompted Congress and some branches of the Trump and Biden administrations to back off plans to encourage domestic chip production. Even though the funding source has not been appropriated yet.
Officials in Europe have also launched proposals on new factories to reduce the dependence on chips manufactured abroad.
Intel’s strategy recognizes that “the world no longer wants to depend on the ring of fire right next to China,” said G. Dan Hutcheson, an industry analyst at VLSI Research. “It’s very futuristic.”
TSMC previously announced plans for a new plant in Arizona, a project that is worth $ 12 billion and is expected to receive federal subsidies. Samsung is looking for government incentives to expand its $ 17 billion facilities in Austin, Texas.
Mr. Gelsinger, who first joined Intel at the age of 18, left in 2009 after 30 years. He served eight years as chief executive officer of software maker VMware before Intel’s board persuaded him to replace Robert Swan, who was ousted in January.
Intel says its new global casting service will operate from the US and Europe, with the addition of the plant expected to be announced next year. It has run factories in Ireland and Israel.
“The industry needs a more geographically balanced production capacity,” said Gelsinger.
Donald Parker, Intel’s vice president, said while pledging $ 20 billion in upfront, Intel hopes to negotiate with the Biden administration and other governments to get incentives for its production expansion.
Despite making most of the products in-house, Intel has long used outside foundries for some of the less advanced chips. Gelsinger said the company will expand that strategy to include some of the leading microprocessors, computational engines used in most computers. That will include some chips for PCs and data centers by 2023, he said, while giving Intel more flexibility in meeting customer needs.
But manufacturing will remain at the core of Intel’s strategy, Gelsinger said, despite its recent technical problems.
Significant improvements are being made in its next production process, which was delayed last summer, he said. He added, Intel will also join IBM in a new partnership to develop new chip manufacturing technology.
Mr. Gelsinger’s plan is bound to be met with skepticism. Aside from recent problems with manufacturing technology, Intel has previously tried to act as a foundry for other companies with little success.
But Intel has modified those plans in a number of ways. For the first time ever, it will be willing to license its engineering gems – the so-called x86 design used in most computers around the world – so that customers can incorporate capabilities. that computation is in chips they design for Intel to manufacture, the company said.