Apple’s top secret ‘Athena’ chip fab gets new ‘delicate instruments’

“Apple has quickly moved to overhaul the equipment installed at the San Jose, Calif., chip fab it acquired from Maxim Integrated Products in December, indicating that the purchase was a strategic priority for the company in its relentless drive to out-innovate its competitor,” Daniel Eran Dilger reports for AppleInsider.

“Apple rapidly initiated efforts to retrofit the equipment installed at the former Maxim fab shortly after taking possession of the facility,” Dilger reports. “Semi-trailer truckloads of equipment, wrapped in anti-static foil labeled as ‘delicate instruments’ have been unloaded at at the facility for installation, indicating that the building wasn’t just acquired as a curiosity to dabble in rudimentary chip experiments.”

“Maxim had originally been using the fab to produce micro-electro-mechanical system sensors (“MEMS,” micro machine components printed like silicon logic chips) targeting the consumer market,” Dilger reports. “MEMS components include tiny devices like accelerometers and gyroscopes (both for sensing motion), pressure sensors (like the barometer included in iPhone 6/6s models), projector displays using DLP technology, IMOD or interferometric modulator displays, and medical devices that can monitor things like blood pressure or detect chemicals.”

"DELICATE INSTRUMENTS" being installed at the Apple's "Athena" facility
“DELICATE INSTRUMENTS” being installed at the Apple’s “Athena” facility

“Using Athena to develop a unique, proprietary new type of device would make sense,” Dilger reports. “This could give Apple another multi year lead in offering a breakthrough new feature much the same way that its acquisition of Authentic enabled it to deploy Touch ID, and then Apple Pay, on new iPhones as a strong, differentiating and exclusive new feature. With its own MEMS fab, Apple could also develop innovative new medical sensors for use in Apple Watch, such as a wearable blood pressure, blood oxygen, or blood sugar monitoring technology.”

Much more, including more photos, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The intrigue builds.

Apple working on systems for ‘high-end cars’ at California ‘auto testing center’ – February 11, 2016
Apple buys former chip fab in San Jose, California – December 15, 2015


  1. When you look at the large issues in life, it is easy to see that an individual’s health is #1 with all forms of healthcare consuming over 20% of the economy.

    Apple will be more involved.

    1. With 10,000 people per day turning 65, it’s really no wonder that geriatric issues are becoming a larger focus in the economy. (As a late baby boomer myself, this has pretty well followed my generation; first, school construction; next, housing; now, medical care. Hint: invest in graveyards. 🙂 )

    1. This is Tim Cook’s doing. After secret internal analytics showed him how his staff were snoozing on the job, he’s insuring that every engineering office has 24/7 access to fine espresso, possibly even with robot baristas. And if that doesn’t improve productivity, he’s installing a pin-making machine. Sticking nappers in the keister will wake ’em up in a blink.

  2. Daniel Eran Dilger is one of the best writer/apple observers in the business. I love that he ts talking about true wearable health technology in his article. Perhaps if enough words are written a MEMS sensor enabled apple watch health will finally ship. I will buy one the day it is offered and i’m not alone.

    In this age where companies outsource everything it is exciting that apple continues to strive to own and author its own technologies. If america is truly to become great again, this lesson must be learned and practiced at companies large and small all around the country.

      1. Dilger is an unapologetic Apple fanboy who writes better than the rest of his brain dead brethren. His opinions are highly biased and self serving, but fanboys take them as gospel truth.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.