An explosion struck Intel's chipmaking facilies in central Arizona.  (Source: Google Maps)

The explosion led to four employees being hospitalized.  (Source: Fox 11 AZ)
Cause of explosion is unknown

An explosion on Tuesday rocked Intel Corp.'s Fab 22, a semiconductor manufacturing facility located near Chandler, Arizona.

The explosion comes just weeks after a tragic explosion at a Chinese plant owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd. (2317) subsidiary Foxconn.  The Chinese plant was being used to manufacture Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad 2 at the time, and has since reopened.  The incident claimed three lives as fires and secondary explosions raged for some time after the incident.

By contrast the damage at the Intel fab was limited by high tech safety systems.  Seven workers were in the room when the explosion occurred and six were outside of it. Fire controls kicked in, as designed, limiting the extent of the damage.

The employees were evacuated for precautionary purposes, but there was no major damage to the Fab or disruption of production.  One worker was taken to the local Maricopa Medical Center with serious, but non-life threatening injuries. Two others were transported to local hospitals immediately after the incident with less serious injuries. And a fourth worker was hospitalized later in the day.

Workers inside the fab room wore protective face shields, aprons, and gloves.  This stands in contrast to workers at Chinese assembly plants that often have minimal protection.

The protective measures are important as the fab, like many, deals with toxic and/or flammable compounds, such as concentrated hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and ammonium hydroxide.

Josh Walden, Intel's vice president and general manager for fab sort manufacturing, released a statement commenting, "We’re trying to ascertain what happened. All we know is that there was no damage or release of chemicals to the community."

The room where the explosion occurred was a solvent treatment room.  Intel uses chemical solvents, like the aforementioned chemicals, to carry out parts of its semiconductor manufacturing process.  After use, these compounds are treated before being shipped to a toxic waste disposal facility.  It is believed that the workers were just starting to treat a batch of solvents when the explosion occurred.

Firefighters arrived at the building at 2 p.m., with employees being cleared to return inside by 3:30 p.m.  

Intel would not speculate on what the financial costs of the damage would be.  However, based on Mr. Walden's comments, it appears that the damage was minimal and localized to the solvent treatment room, so this should not be a major setback for Intel.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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