Intel Corp.’s $7 billion expansion in Chandler is now operational, making the southeast Valley semiconductor fabrication factory the chipmaker’s largest in the U.S.

The company calls Fab 42, the fabrication facility that quietly opened earlier this year, the most advanced in the world and one that has been years in the making. Between its two campuses in Chandler, Intel now has close to 900,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Santa Clara, California-based Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) hired 3,000 workers over the past 12 to 18 months to operate the fab, bringing the total number of employees at the plant to 12,000, said Keyvan Esfarjani, senior vice president and general manager of global manufacturing and operations at Intel.

Fab 42 connects to Intel’s three other fabs at the Chandler plant, making the site the chipmaker’s first megafactory network. It uses the 10-nanometer manufacturing process to produce Intel’s latest generation of products, which power everything from microprocessors and data centers to vehicles and 5G networks.

Intel didn’t disclose the median salary of employees at its Chandler plant, but globally, the median salary for an Intel employee is $96,300. About 81% of Intel’s U.S. employees’ total direct compensation exceeds the median salary.

40 years in Arizona

Intel has invested more than $23 billion to build high-tech manufacturing capacity in the Grand Canyon State since 1996. Intel’s annual economic impact in Arizona is approximately $8.3 billion, according to Arizona State University research.

Intel’s first silicon wafers came off the production line at Fab 6 in Chandler in October 1980. Fab 6 originally produced microcontrollers on 4-inch wafers using 1.0-micron technology, according to the company.

Esfarjani said Intel operates and continues to expand in Arizona because the state is business friendly and there is an “amazing pipeline of talent.” Plus, the state has the required infrastructure to support the manufacturing process including low-cost energy and water.

A skilled workforce is continuing to graduate from Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Maricopa County Community College and other programs, he said. In fact, this fall Maricopa County Community College District launched the first Intel-designed artificial intelligence associate degree program in the United States.

New generation of chips

When Fab 42 was completed in 2013, it was supposed to manufacture 14nm (nanometer) chips. Instead, it had remained empty until the company decided what to do next.

In 2017, Intel announced its plans to resume construction and invest $7 billion to complete the factory. At that time, the new fab was expected to use the advanced 7nm manufacturing process. But because of a series of delays, it is producing 10nm chips.

In its second quarter earnings call, Intel revealed issues in its manufacturing process for its 7nm chips. As a result, the company is pushing back the timing of 7nm chips by six months. Last year, the company said 7nm chips could be out in 2021.

Intel called the Fab 42 construction project one of the largest in the U.S. and points out that it created about 10,000 new Arizona jobs from start to finish. The site features an ambitious water conservation effort. A 12-acre water plant will treat 9.1 million gallons of wastewater a day, according to the company.

Additionally, Intel has said manufacturing operations have been minimally impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The fabrication process is performed in a clean room, which are cleaner than a hospital room, according to the company.

In a letter to customers on March 19, Intel CEO Bob Swan said Intel factories around the world would continue to operate on a relatively normal basis. He said teams continue to manufacture, assemble, test and supply chain operations in Oregon, New Mexico, California and Arizona, as well as Israel, Ireland, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and other Intel and partner locations around the world.

“They are working hard to make sure customers continue to be successful while sustaining a rate of on-time delivery currently greater than 90%,” he said.

Elsewhere, Intel is currently expanding manufacturing facilities in Oregon, Ireland and Israel and investing in new technology in a New Mexico facility, according to the company.

Originally posted on Phoenix Business Journal