back to article 400 jobs to go as Texas Instruments calls time on chip fab in Scotland

Texas Instruments is to shutter its semiconductor plant in Scotland with the ultimate loss of 400 jobs, the company has confirmed. Staff were this afternoon informed by the chip maker about the plans to “phase out our manufacturing facility in Greenock” that are set to happen “over the next three years”. TI issued a statement …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    deep in the heart of ...

    Best way to keep your job with TI is to enjoy living in Texas. Its in their name for a reason. It is certainly the center of their universe. Generally when they are considering a new fab the question is what suburb of Dallas is going to get it.

    1. paulf Silver badge

      Re: deep in the heart of ...

      This makes sense, especially in my experience of working in this sector (YMMV).

      When a company decides to get smaller it's normally through closing or shrinking sites that are remote to head office. Those working at Head Office* are usually the last to experience significant cuts. I'm not saying this is a hard and fast rule (I'm sure others have seen it the other way round) but it's always been the case when I've seen, or been part of, redundancies.

      *All positions, including Eng, IT etc, not just admin or corporate Veep types.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Bit sad really

    I can remember in the early days of TTL they were one of the very few chip makers that would throw reams of detailed information your way (and samples) at the drop of a hat.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Bit sad really

      Ahh memories of the dog-eared and creased orangey-yellow coloured TTL Data Book. How much time I spent looking up details of my little 18 pin DIL packages.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    But surely

    All the expertise in semiconductor design and solid state physics, plus all advanced optics, Excimer laser and mask stepper supply companies that would have built up to support Silicon Glen will still be world leaders.

    Or at least that's what we were promised when they were given the backhander/inward-investment-grant to build it there.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I supposed the Greenock plant was left still producing 14 and 16 pin Dilics.

  5. x 7

    is there anything at all now left of the Clydeside silicon valley?

    1. Andy Scott

      I know IBM are still there, but I'm not sure who else is

      1. EquipmentGuy

        Spango valley is now a call centre.

        1. /dev/null

          Not for much longer

          IBM Spango Valley is due to close completely this year.

          IBM Pulling Out Of Spango Valley

  6. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Corporate take-over?

    I think this used to be a National Semiconductors plant until ~2011 when TI bought them out. Shame to see it go, as not a whole lot else in Greenock to move to :(

  7. Vulture@C64

    Texas and Motorola - common issues

    Scotland simply became uncompetitive. My father used to work at Motorola years ago and they shut that plant in 2012.

    http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/13233355.the_end_of_a_DREAM_IT_WAS_THE_HEART_OF_SILICON_GLEN__EMPLOYING_2500_WORKERS__NOW_THE_MOTOROLA_FACTORY_IS_A_HEAP_OF_RUBBLE/

    Motorola opened the plant because of significant tax incentives and a large grant - once it was there it was worth using but it became expensive plus Motorola became uncompetitive in several markets hence they shut the loss making plants. I remember him bringing home a sample of the first 68000 wafer - streets ahead of the competition at the time.

    He told me of an emergency evacuation they had - they used to use hydrofluric acid to etch the silicon in those days (early 80s) and it had a very distinctive smell. One day, through the air con vents (it was an almost sealed building, no windows) came the smell which people associated with this particular acid so an emergency evacuation took place with emergency services called etc. This acid would eat through almost anything and had to be kept in glass vessels.

    After they evacuated the whole building they found a spice factory on the next trading estate had a small fire and the smell of the burning spice was similar to this acid ! It took 2 weeks to resume production after a forced shut-down.

    Motorola was also where he discovered the glass ceiling - if you weren't American you'd not go above a certain level, they preferred to ship in people for director level rather than promote non-US staff.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Texas and Motorola - common issues

      Yeah had buddies who contracted for Motorola and they used to talk about fist fights during meetings between employees. Lovely place to work so comes as little surprise they aren't exactly all that important any more. Can't speak to the early 1980s as before my time in fabs but I can tell you today gas alarms in fabs are far more sensitive than human smell (chemicals and gasses also contained much more in the tools these days). I have spent countless hours in fabs and can't remember ever smelling anything but my own breath at least outside the chases (smells means particles, and with world class air filtration in most fabs those disappear quickly) but I have seen gas alarms go off a few times (some of the gases used are so bad that by the time you smell them you may already be a goner) and not stayed around to smell. As for HF its even nastier than you think. That shit goes right through your skin and starts eating your bones which I hear is even more painful than it sounds. The nastiest MSDS symbols I have ever seen on a tool were for diborane (silane gets honorable mention) though. The stuff of nightmares.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Texas and Motorola - common issues

        A chemical for schoolgirls. Now Chlorine tri-flouride - one of the fun properties, it explodes on contact with asbestos and sand !

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Texas and Motorola - common issues

          Yeah wow that is nasty stuff. According to the NFPA diamond it gets a 0 (diborane was all 4s) for flammability (diborane can explode on contact to regular air). The thing is Chlorine tri-flouride such a powerful oxidizing agent it might not burn or explode itself but it will cause a lot of normal stuff it comes in contact to do so. Looks like diborane is still more toxic with about half the LC50 but both are beyond nasty. Learn something every day. Much more of an IT guy than process engineer but always good to know what could kill you I suppose.

    3. paulf Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Texas and Motorola - common issues

      RE: Foundry evacuations.

      I used to work in a Semiconductor foundry building - thankfully in the Engineering office so I didn't have to 'don a bunny suit.

      Due to the various nasty and exotic chemicals in use in the fab itself we had semi-regular unannounced evacuation drills, regardless of the weather (If it wasn't a drill there were a plethora of sirens approaching within two minutes).

      On one occasion we didn't evacuate the building into our assembly areas quick enough. The plant manager addressed the assembled 200 or so of us like a headmaster and told us that as we didn't do it quickly enough we'd be doing it again sometime next week.

      *Icon - PPE required!

    4. Julian Bradfield

      Re: Texas and Motorola - common issues

      Erm, Vulture@C64, glass is the one thing you absolutely *don't* keep hydrofluoric acid in - one of its main uses is etching glass (which is silicon dioxide, of course). Suitable plastics are ok.

  8. EquipmentGuy

    TI plant closure announcement

    Bad news but not entirely unexpected. Their fate was sealed when NatSemi merged with TI back in 2011. Before then NatSemi had survived the chop often at the expense of other fabs in US and further afield and by a CEO who happened to be Scots - Donald MacLeod. With the TI merger there was always the spectre of consolidation especially with TI's 300mm fab in Texas.

    In the semi industry it's all about investment in the expensive processing equipment and Greenock's under investment left them vulnerable. There's quite a lot of consolidation going on right now with the biggest UK wafer fab - IR in Newport - also up for sale after the Infineon takeover last year, where Infineon have embarked on a major asset stripping exercise pushing the production processes into their 300mm fabs and moving the in-house design team to Villach in Austria. So that makes both 200mm fabs up for sale (and without customers,ruling out management buyouts ) and the Newport fab due for closure in 2017, if no buyer is found. It seems we are now seeing the demise of the semi industry in the UK but one nagging question remains : were the high relative energy costs also a factor in the closure decision,after all TI have several 200 mm fabs and they are saying the 200mm

    Japan plant is more efficient.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: TI plant closure announcement

      >In the semi industry it's all about investment in the expensive processing equipment

      Yeah its about avoiding as Intel layoffs show. Most chips are commodities these days. Notice how all that smoke about 450mm disappeared? Outlaying billions on a 300mm fab means your ROI may be in decades. Yes technically the production costs are lower but often not low enough to make it worth it. I am seeing a lot of old 200mm fabs already paid for often being more valuable than fancy new 300mm and the massive debt it entails at least in the developed world. The semiconductor industry is now a mature industry with low single digit growth.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: TI plant closure announcement

        So fabs are a rapidly depreciating disposable asset. So you find some sucker 3rd world country to give you the money to build one,and tax breaks to operate it - on the back of them becoming the next Silicon LOCAL_FEATURE then you plan to gradually run it down with zero investment until the next sucker turns up.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: TI plant closure announcement

          Sounds good on paper but said 3rd world country may end up stealing a lot of your IP as part of the deal. But then again with chip being commodities that is less important that it once was. 3rd world fabs are good for overcapacity but you still want a few bread and butter fabs in the developed world to guard against revolutions, flooding, nationalization and all the other lovely risks the 3rd world entails.

  9. deive

    Could be good for the Raspbian Foundation? Loverly Pis then will all be made here! Probably too expensive, but we can dream.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depends what lithographic step Greenock was on - BCM2835/6 are both 40nm parts, so it would have needed a refresh since about 2010.

      It would be cute, but unlikely as Broadcom make the choice of fab rather than Raspberry Pi Foundation or Trading. (pedant mode - Raspbian is the Linux distro, not the organisation).

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