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Note: This feature was first published on 11 September 2023. If you're looking to learn about the Meteor Lake processor architecture, head over here.
The magic of planet-scale orchestration, the Intel way
Did you know there's a whole chain of complex processes beyond wafer production at wafer fab plants to transform them into processors used in laptops and servers? Most tech publications like ours often focus on the wafer fab capabilities as they dictate the output possibilities for meeting the industry's needs. However, there are four other vital stages beyond wafer fabrication that help get processors out to consumers and businesses that are not often discussed.
Chiefly, they are the advanced packaging stage, die prep and die sorting, die assembly and testing, and finally, board and system-level integration testing. While Intel's homeland, USA, has several wafer fab plants, most of the packaging, assembly and testing phases occur across overseas sites. Of them, Malaysia is the company's very first offshore site from way back in 1972.
Fifty-one years later, it is home to 15,000 employees with over 900,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity in Penang. Its current and upcoming facilities are capable of handling all the stages after receiving a silicon wafer. It is also home to the design and development stages of Intel's next-generation Meteor Lake processors, including its high-volume manufacturing.
We expect Meteor Lake-based processors (also otherwise fondly referred to as the 14th Gen Core processor) to be formally announced at Intel’s upcoming Innovation event and show up in laptops by the end of this year. This is why Intel took the opportunity to gather the world’s top tech publications (like HardwareZone, of course) and analysts to showcase what they are capable of at Intel’s Penang factories ahead of the official announcement. It is also the very first time that Intel is opening up its Penang factories to the press at such a large scale and with broad access to most of the critical stages that processors undergo to convert them into their final form – be it shipped off to laptop manufacturers, or to be boxed up for retail sales. As such, we truly appreciate the access and logistics they’ve arranged to make the Intel Tech Tour Malaysia such an eye-opener.
In essence, the Intel Penang operations play a vital role in upholding Intel’s IDM 2.0 leadership plan (where IDM stands for Integrated Device Manufacturer) outlined by CEO Pat Gelsinger to uplift the internal factory network and support at-scale manufacturing in-house. Intel has already invested billions into its Penang factories, but they are not stopping anytime soon.
While up to US$20 billion is being invested for new fabs in Arizona, USA, to bolster wafer production and to serve up its chip manufacturing services to others via a new Intel Foundry Services branch (again, part of IDM 2.0), they’ve also shared not long ago that Intel isinvesting a further US$3.5 billion in New Mexico, USA, for advanced packaging facilities, as well as a further US$7 billion in Intel Penang for both packaging and testing facilities among others to come. By 2032, Intel estimates that they will have invested a total of US$14 billion in their Malaysia operations. Once these added facilities are up and running, Intel Penang’s manufacturing space will increase just over two-fold to over 2 million square feet.
Those are no small figures or processes, so what exactly happens in Malaysia after Intel sends over its silicon wafers? Here's a 60-second overview in our TikTok reel, but read on for the titillating details.
@hwztech We're just weeks away from Intel's next-gen CPU launch, so Vijay is at Intel #Penang factories to see if he could sneak one out! #intel #inteltechday #inteltechtour #meteorlake #cpu #processor ♬ Flowery Resale – DJ BAI< PrevPage 1 of 2 – Production Stage 1 and 2Page 2 of 2 – Production Stage 3 and 4Page 1 of 2 – Production Stage 1 and 2Page 1 of 2 Page 1 of 2 – Production Stage 1 and 2Page 2 of 2 – Production Stage 3 and 4Next >