For Intel, manufacturing serves as the underpinning for our business and allows us to provide customers and consumers with leading edge products in high volume.The unmatched scope and scale of our investments in manufacturing helps Intel maintain industry leadership and drive innovation.
—Intel CEO Brian Krzanich
From purified silicon to technology that powers your everyday life, discover the making of silicon chips—the most complex devices ever manufactured.
The process of making computer chips is called fabrication. The factories where chips are made are called fabrication facilities, or fabs. Intel fabs are among the most technically advanced manufacturing facilities in the world. When Intel first started making chips, the company used 2-inch diameter wafers. Now the company uses 12-inch or 300-millimeter (mm) wafers; larger wafers are more difficult to process, but the result is lower cost per chip. Intel uses a photolithographic "printing" process to build a chip layer by layer. Many layers are deposited across the wafer and then removed in small areas to create transistors and interconnects. Together, they will form the active ("on/off") part of the chip's circuitry plus the connections between them in a three-dimensional structure. The process is performed numerous times on each wafer, with hundreds or thousands of chips placed grid-like on a wafer and processed simultaneously.
After creating layers on the wafers, Intel performs wafer sort, where a tester completes a series of tests to ensure that chip circuits meet specifications to perform as designed.
Intel sends the finished wafers to an Intel assembly/test facility. The wafer is cut with a diamond saw, separating the wafers into individual chips. Each functioning die is assembled into a package that protects the die. The package/die combo is then tested for functionality. The package delivers critical power and electrical connections when placed directly on a computer motherboard, or into other devices such as cell phones or tablets.