IBM Corp. has opened a new plant in East Fishkill, N.Y., to make chips on 300 millimetre-diameter wafers it announced Wednesday.

Wafers are the sheets of silicon from which computer chips are cut, and by increasing the size of the wafer – the 300 millimetre wafer can hold up to about 50 billion transistors – more chips can be produced while decreasing the cost of per-chip production. Companies such as Intel Corp., Texas Instruments Inc. (TI), Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and contract chip manufacturer United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) have already begun making the switch to 300 millimetre wafers from the current industry-standard 200 millimetre ones. I

BM’s plant, which will feature a mostly automated manufacturing line, is expected to begin high-volume production later in the year, the company said. Work on prototype customer designs has already started, IBM said.