Intel has announced that it will spend $20 billion on two new semiconductor factories in Ohio. The company says that the factories won’t be ready to start making chips until 2025, so the news sadly won’t relieve us of the chip shortage making PC gaming so hard right now (which Intel estimates will continue until next year), but it could be the start of a long term shift in chip manufacturing. Alongside the announcement, President Biden is talking up his administration’s effort to alleviate the global semiconductor shortage by increasing production in the US.
“This is a game changer,” Biden said in a speech at the White House on Friday, where he repeatedly mentioned the massive effect the shortages have had on car manufacturers (but not the effect it’s had on PC gamers, if you can believe it). Biden praised Intel for spending big on a US-based factory. Samsung and Micron pledged to do the same last year.
Biden—along with major computing companies, including Intel, AMD, and Nvidia—have been pushing for Congress to fund the CHIPS Act, which would put $52 billion toward domestic semiconductor production. The CHIPS Act was approved via the National Defense Authorization Act in January 2021, but the funding part of it wasn’t included. Now, everyone is waiting on the Innovation and Competition Act, which includes the $52 billion, to get through the House of Representatives.
Last year, Intel invested $3.5 billion in expanding its New Mexico facility and another $20 billion in opening two semiconductor fabrication plants (aka “fabs”) in Arizona.
Biden praised the company for all of its efforts to increase the volume of chip manufacturing in the US. As of 2020, the US only made up about 12% of global manufacturing, despite accounting for 47% of global chip sales, he said. Biden and Intel both want to close that gap and hope that this news will speed up the Innovation and Competition Act’s approval. If it does pass, Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger said the construction of the new fabs will be “bigger and faster,” according to The New York Times.
According to a Time report, “locating a chip factory in the United States doesn’t necessarily insure against further supply chain disruptions,” because “Intel’s chips will still be sent to Asia for assembly, packaging, and testing.”
Gelsinger told the magazine that the goal is to eventually produce and package chips “all on American soil,” contingent on money from the CHIPS for America Act.
The ongoing shortages have stalled out many industries that utilize chips, like cars, medical devices, and graphics cards. While PC gaming is a little low on the priority list, it would be nice to pay a decent price for the best graphics cards at some point.