Its not often we get an opportunity to visit the manufacturing facilities of one of the leading CPU manufacturers, so we were pleasantly surprised to be invited to visit AMD’s Fab 30 facility in Dresden Germany. Although this wasn’t our first visit, we’ve been to the Fab 30 facility shortly after construction was finished, but we’ve never been able to tour around their general processing facilities and get a glimpse of the clean rooms where all of the delicate processing is handled. Although AMD doesn’t talk about it much, whereas I think they should, their Fab 30 facility is AMD’s cutting edge facility where all of their copper-based Athlon XP are currently produced and where the, soon to debut, Athlon-64 processors will also be manufactured.
Many people never stop to think what’s actually needed to manufacture the CPUs and other semiconductors that make computers work, but the close to two billion dollar price tag that was needed for the construction of this facility might give you an impression. Manufacturing semiconductors, but especially the high-volume production of complex semiconductors, requires a rare combination of expertise, engineering, equipment, commitment of all the parties involved and meticulous planning and execution. Although we’ve seen the insides of smaller fabs before and are well aware of what’s needed to manufacture semiconductors the impression we’ve got from Fab 30 was quite impressive, hence the title of this article.
Fig 1. The AMD Fab 30 facility in Dresden, Germany. AMD's production line of 0.13-micron Athlon XP CPUs.
The Fab 30 facility was actually awarded the ‘Fab of the Year 2001’ award by Semiconductor International magazine as we found out during our visit, but we’d have to concur that this is very well deserved by the looks of it. With the current production of 5000 wafers, 200mm in diameter, per week and based on the 0.13-micron process the fab is able to manufacture about 200 CPUs per wafer which yields close to 1-million Athlon XP CPUs per week. In the next few pages we’ll talk about how these CPUs are manufactured, why copper is now commonly accepted and what’s in store for the future.