Samsung opens world's biggest chip plant in Texas

Samsung's new $3.5 billion factory in Austin will produce NAND flash memory

Samsung Electronics opened a $3.5 billion memory chip factory in Austin Thursday, the biggest such plant in Texas.

The world's largest memory chip maker will produce NAND flash memory, which is used to store data in a wide range of products, from digital cameras to iPods, at the facility. Production at the factory will start in the second half of this year, and the first product to be made there will be 16Gb NAND flash chips, using a 50-nanometer production process.

Such new factories ensure plentiful supply for the memory chip industry, which is important for keeping prices down for users as more and more people buy consumer electronics that let them capture, share and store pictures, songs and other data.

The new chip facility covers the area of nine football fields, and will reach an output of 60,000 wafers per month by 2008. Hundreds of memory chips can be made on one silicon wafer. It will be among the most advanced memory chip plants in the U.S. when it starts churning out 50-nanometer chips later this year. There are about three to six atoms in a nanometer, depending on the type of atom, and it describes the smallest size of features on a chip. Currently, 65-nanometers is considered cutting edge, though Intel makes some products using 45-nanometer technology.

Samsung has hired 1,600 employees for the factory. Samsung Electronics currently operates 15 semiconductor production lines globally, including two factories in Texas.