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Intel’s Rio Rancho plant develops new tech niche

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 1:18 am    Post subject: Intel’s Rio Rancho plant develops new tech niche Reply with quote

RIO RANCHO — Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho has carved out a new technology niche for itself that’s key to the global chip maker’s continuing worldwide expansion, bringing an end to employee downsizing at the plant, at least for now.
That’s welcome news for Rio Rancho, where the company’s workforce has plummeted from about 3,300 in 2013 to 1,200 as of last December.
Downsizing in recent years reflected the plant’s aging chip technology compared with Intel facilities elsewhere that have received huge corporate investments to move production into more advanced chips with greater data-processing capabilities.
But even with the downsizing, engineering teams in Rio Rancho over the last few years have managed to leapfrog ahead of other Intel plants and the semiconductor industry in general by developing new methods to fuse optics technology, or lasers, with traditional silicon-based electronics circuits. It’s next-generation technology that uses light to immensely speed data transfer, compared to traditional digital communications that rely on electronics to transfer and process information.
The semiconductor industry is scrambling to develop the new technology to manage high-speed data transfer in a hyper-connected world that provides instant access for consumers using everything from smartphones and computers to high-definition TV. And it’s key to Intel’s efforts to maintain market dominance in the data center industry, where the company provides most of the communications processing components used to manage huge computer servers and networks.
That work could bring some needed stability to Rio Rancho.
“We have no plans now for further staff reductions,” said Katie Prouty, who took over last summer as site manager for Intel in New Mexico. “We’ve even done some hiring on site this year.”
Any hiring will not replace the number of employees laid off. In fact, the workforce may now be lower than it was last December. The company won’t announce employment totals until it delivers its annual report to the Sandoval County Commission next April.
With the new technology work now under way, plus its traditional chip-making activities, the Rio Rancho site remains critical.
“(It) continues to be a very important part of our global manufacturing network,” Intel spokeswoman Linda Qian said.
Last year, Intel began incorporating Rio Rancho’s new technology into new products for data centers, making the local plant a critical cog in the company’s global manufacturing network as it penetrates deeper into the data-processing industry.
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