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AMD and its Dresden Sandpit: Part I

No bunny suit…whew, what a scorcha

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One of the guys flying into Dresden first thing yesterday morning said to us: "Hey, is that the AMD Fab?" We looked out of the window and saw a great big facility with the AMD green and this is what alerted our travelling companion, a streetwise native New Yorker, to the possibility. But although he knew Dresden was hammered to destruction by the Brits et al in World War II, he didn't know about Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five -- more of that later… The man was right. After tipping into Dresden airport and passing a sign for Meitwagen, we came to a new stretch of road and AMD was marked on the street furniture. So we knew we had arrived, because Fab 30 -- called that because AMD is 30 years old -- doesn't have an AMD sign or logo on the outside. This could be handy if last week's reports in the Wall Street Journal are true, and AMD wants a partner, maybe Motorola, to bankroll the copper whopper. It was made absolutely clear to us that we would absolutely not be allowed to bunny up and see the big clean room. Before we spill facts and figures about the fab, here are the fables: There will be a 750MHz K7 Athlon around end of September. Before we awaited the arrival of Geschaftsfuhrer Doktor Hans Deppe, we were shown a 15 minute video with a most laconic voice over. This mostly repeated the facts and figures in a press release that the builder of the fab released early…oops. The Italian architect of Fab 30, in Wilschdorf, just a stone's throw from Maxim Gorky Strasse (!) wasn't shown in the video but there were some so-called milestones from the breaking of the 42-hectare site on the 7th of October 1996 to date. The breaking of the ground bit was good. The prime minister of Saxony and divers others, eagerly dug their stainless steel spades into the Dresden turf, prompting the voice over geezer to quip: "Here are all the senior people playing in their sandpit." Jerry "Only Real Men Have Fabs" Sanders III, on the 22nd of May 1997, laid the foundation stone of Fab 30, a hollow object which contained a cylinder to preserve the AMD logo for posterity. At this ceremony, Sanders said: "Bless Dresden, Bless Saxony, Bless AMD's microelectronics centre, may we be successful together." OK. AMD calls its boxes of eight inch wafers "pods" and, like Intel at Albuquerque, has some fancy software which sends the pods to the different spots they should occupy (more of spots later). This system is called the SMIF (standard mechanical interface). Each wafer has its own code, while the big and very expensive boxes which we weren't allowed to see, by the way, use automated copper (Kupfer) tools -- whatever they are. Fab 30 is dedicated to the future of the copper Athlons -- there's no way that process can be transferred back to Austin -- the cost is prohibitive. This, by the way, is the reason why Intel won't move to copper quick. Here's some more facts about the fab. There's nearly $2 billion worth of investment in Dresden. The plant itself uses 60,000 cubic metres of concrete, 8,000 tons of steel, and 2,000 kilometres of cable. It cost DM 500 million to build, and took three million construction hours. Ireland was AMD's first choice for the fab and Dresden came to the game late. Dresden was chosen, claims AMD, because of government subsidies of $500 million. Dresden was formerly a Communist centre for microprocessors. A one megabit chip was developed there in 1987/1988. Said a representative: "We profited from the communists to build Dresden as a high tech centre". There are two local universities and 20 research centres while just across the strasse from Fab 30 is Infineon's 12-inch wafer fab. Rumours abound it will stop building DRAM here soon… The local government, in the shape of the Prime Minister of Saxony, engineered a power supply exclusively for Fab 30, while there is also a city pipeline of H2O from the river Elbe. According to said representative: "Since we started, the quality of water in the Elbe has improved. You can now catch as much as one kilogram of fish per month from the river." By the way, we can vouch for the utter stinkiness of the Elbe. Later in the day, we had dinner on a floating boat and the stench put us right off our fish… (Tomorrow: The Geschaftsfuhrer speaks and we reveal more fab facts and figures) ® See also: AMD positions K7 Athlon for enterprise AMD succeeds in producing copper K6 AMD brings forward Athlon to 10 August AMD succeeds in producing copper K6 AMD fabs first copper parts, 1GHz Athlon by year end?

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