Apple buys microchip prototyping plant in San Jose

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By Larry Banks

Apple has paid more than $18 million for a 70,00 square foot microchip fabrication plant that was formerly owned by Samsung in North San Jose, not far from its existing headquarters at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino.

According to a report by Nathan Donato-Weinstein of the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the plant was operated by Maxim Integrated Products primarily as a low volume manufacturing facility, as well as to support the development of process technology.

However, Maxim closed the facility in July of this year. The company originally bought the site from Samsung in 1997, and which still sits near a new Samsung Semiconductor building.

Maxim itself marketed the plant as an operational fabrication plant, and said it would be suited for prototype, pilot and low-volume manufacturing.

Analysts have also noted that the agent stated that “this facility is capable of producing a wide array of products at multiple technology nodes ranging from 600nm to 90nm, with the bulk of production from 350nm to 180nm”.

Apple’s current chips in Macs and iOS devices (i.e. the iPhone and iPad) are made by various companies such as Samsung, Intel, Broadcom, Texas Instruments and others, but usually use more advanced production processes than the new site can deliver. The small fab may however be used to prototype chip designs or for other research and development activities.

The original ARM chips used in the first iPhone were built on a 90n process. While the iPhone 6s uses a 14-16nm process in its custom Apple-design A9 chip based on an ARM core.

SOURCE: Silicon Valley Business Journal.

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