Intel moves some tech development to Rio Rancho

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho is hiring again, following the company’s decision to transfer development of a new storage and memory technology to its New Mexico plant.

The new technology could greatly improve processing speeds for desktop computers and data center operations. Intel created the technology — known as 3D XPoint, or “cross point,” in partnership with another company, Micron Technology. But the partners announced this summer that they would part ways to continue developing 3D XPoint separately, allowing each company to pursue its own applications and markets.

On Monday, Intel announced that development work will now be moved to Rio Rancho, paving the way for the local plant to hire another 100 people.

“The transition of that work to Rio Rancho will add over 100 new positions to the site,” said Intel spokesperson Liz Shipley. “We’ll host some job fairs in the near future to recruit people.”

The announcement marks a reversal from recent years. Employment at the local plant fell from about 3,300 people in 2013 to about 1,100 now as corporate investment in next-generation chip technology and manufacturing operations went to Intel sites in other states and countries.

But the Rio Rancho facility’s research-and-development work has remained strong, leading to development of new products here that have helped stabilize the local workforce since last year. Local engineering teams, for example, created novel methods to fuse optics technology, using lasers, with traditional silicon-based electronics circuits. That’s next-generation technology that uses light to immensely speed data transfer, compared with traditional digital communications that rely on electronics to transfer and process information.

That breakthrough allowed Rio Rancho to take over development of new products that use the “silicon photonics” technology it created. Now, with Rio Rancho absorbing the new 3D XPoint technology development, the local plant is hiring people again for the first time in five years.

“In the last several years, Intel kind of plateaued,” state Economic Development Secretary Matt Geisel told the Journal. “But now they’re moving back onto a growth path. We’re very excited.”

The company is not investing in manufacturing operations here. Rather, it’s pursuing technology development to create new products as part of the company’s efforts to diversify its markets beyond its traditional focus on semiconductor chips for computer processing.

The 3D XPoint technology is based on a new type of engineering architecture that places data memory and storage much closer to micro-processors inside computers or data centers, allowing information to transfer back and forth at much faster speeds than with current computing technology. That places much greater amount of memory for immediate access right next to microprocessors, providing much more capacity.

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