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April 30, 1991|Dean Takahashi/Times staff writer

'Most Distinguished': Western Digital Corp. said its $115-million semiconductor manufacturing plant in the Irvine Spectrum has been selected as one of the nation's top chip-making plants by Semiconductor International magazine.

After looking at more than 250 plants over a year, the magazine chose the plant as one of the "most productive, most distinguished" plants of its type in the United States. The magazine also singled out an Intel Corp. factory in New Mexico.

The Western Digital plant has one of the few "Class 1" clean rooms in the country, meaning its chip-fabrication area is 1,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating room. The plant production area must be clean to prevent impurities from fouling the tiny electronic circuits on the semiconductor chips.

The Western Digital plant, which began operations in August, produces more than 1,000 semiconductor wafers per week. The wafers are disks filled with electronic chips that are painstakingly fashioned from silicon.

John R. Mackay, a Western Digital senior vice president, said the plant's production is running ahead of schedule.

The plant will mainly build prototype wafers and small volumes of customers' initial orders. However, Western Digital expects to produce about 40% of its total chip volume at the plant next year.

"Because of the design of this plant, we'll compete effectively with plants that are two or three times our size," Mackay said.

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