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Visiting the places that make Moore's Law happen (pictures)

CNET went to Intel's research hub in Hillsboro, Ore., and GlobalFoundries' factory in Malta, N.Y., to see the facilities developing tomorrow's chips. Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, has spent more than $25 billion building up six campuses in Oregon. GlobalFoundries, owned by the government of Abu Dhabi's investment arm, spent $10 billion creating its new Malta facility.

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Ben Fox Rubin
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Getting ready to fly

I came to Hillsboro, Ore., earlier this month to check out chipmaker Intel's massive research facilities there. The best way to get a full picture of how big some of these campuses are is from the air. So, I took a ride from Hillsboro Airport with my pilot, Poliana Perotto.

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Our helicopter

We took a two-seater Robinson R22, with one door taken out so I could take pictures and video.

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Intel's Aloha campus

Flying at 500 feet, our first stop was Intel's Aloha campus, where construction started in the 1970s.

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Another view of Aloha

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., first came to Hillsboro in 1974, buying the 35-acre parcel that became Aloha, because all its existing factories at the time were along California fault lines, the San Andreas Fault and Hayward Fault.

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Aloha today

Some of the oldest facilities at Aloha have been mothballed, replaced by much bigger and more modern buildings. This shot shows the two small brick buildings up front that started the Aloha campus.

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Next stop: Ronler Acres

Intel's silicon development teams ran out of space at Aloha by the 1990s, so started building Ronler Acres, a 300-acre site a few miles away. At Ronler, Intel researchers study new ways to shrink chip transistors, to help make gadgets smaller, cheaper and faster.

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Above Ronler

Ronler includes four chipmaking facilities, where the company both manufactures chips for sale and develops new chips.

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Huge support system

Ronler's facilities are connected by a maze of stainless steel pipes and lattices, dotted with tall silos filled with gases and surrounded by a utilities building, water purification plants and an electrical substation.

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Ronler's D1X

The long, white building is D1X, Intel's newest chipmaking building, used to develop the most cutting-edge processors.

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Flying over D1X

Here's Perotto banking over D1X.

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One more view of D1X

Intel has six campuses in Oregon, along with Ronler, with more than 17,000 employees, the biggest concentration of Intel's roughly 107,000 workers worldwide.

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Ronler from the ground

Here's a shot of the back of Ronler. Since 1974, Intel has spent about $25 billion in capital investments in Oregon, with Ronler being a big chunk of that.

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Obama visits Hillsboro

In February 2011, President Barack Obama toured Intel's facilities in Hillsboro to highlight the company's investments in US manufacturing. Here's a chip wafer he signed during the visit, which Intel has framed at the lobby of its Jones Farm campus.

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Cell workers

While its chips dominate in personal computers and servers, Intel has been playing catch up in mobile devices, with the company currently having little exposure to smartphones. Here, Intel wireless executive Aicha Evans, center, helps show off Intel's wireless labs inside Jones Farm.

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Mark Bohr's cubicle

Mark Bohr is one of the leaders at Intel pushing forward Moore's Law. His cubicle is filled with framed chip wafers and pictures involving the semiconductor technologies he's helped develop.

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GlobalFoundries visit

I came to chipmaker GlobalFoundries' factory in upstate New York a few days earlier. Here, lithography section manager John Mathews is getting ready to bring me into the factory's clean room.

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Boots, gloves, face masks

A clean room -- a strictly controlled manufacturing space where chips are made -- requires all workers wear cloth suits, to reduce the amount of particles in the air. Any speck of dust could damage the sensitive work of making chips.

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Inside the gowning room

Mathews walks me through the process of putting on the gloves, hood, face mask, boots and suit needed to visit the clean room. The space is filled with yellow light, to protect a lithography chemical used in the machines.

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Getting suited up

To keep dust and other particles out of the air, GlobalFoundries clean-room workers can only wear odorless deodorant. Makeup and perfumes are prohibited, and workers need to wait two hours after smoking before they can re-enter the facility.

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Ready to go

That's me on the left and Mathews on the right. After entering the clean room, though, I was barred from taking any pictures of the production floor.

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Taking a drive

To gain a fuller impression of GlobalFoundries' $10 billion factory, I took an ATV tour around the site.

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The constant work of chip making

GlobalFoundries' factory works all day, 365 days a year, spitting out about 60,000 chip wafers a month. Here are Brian Rickert, a design engineer, left, and Ed Haldeman, a project manager, who help show me around.

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Driving around the Malta facility

The Malta campus is on a 222-acre parcel, with more than 3,000 employees.

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Gas supplies

To make chips, manufacturers need a huge amount of industrial gases to operate their machines. These are a handful of the gas tanks at GlobalFoundries, built deep within its facility.

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Constant construction work

Construction at the Malta site began in 2009, and development and expansion work has been going on there ever since, with a new phase of building starting up there now.

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Once an Army base

The GlobalFoundries site was home to a US Army rocket-testing facility during World War II. Here is one worn piece of the location's history that still remains.

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