© 2017 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. The superconducting electron cyclotron resonance ion source with advanced design in Lanzhou (SECRAL) is a superconducting-magnet-based electron cyclotron resonance ion source (ECRIS) for the production of intense highly charged heavy ion beams. It is one of the best performing ECRISs worldwide and the first superconducting ECRIS built with an innovative magnet to generate a high strength minimum-B field for operation with heating microwaves up to 24-28 GHz. Since its commissioning in 2005, SECRAL has so far produced a good number of continuous wave intensity records of highly charged ion beams, in which recently the beam intensities of Ar4012+ and Xe12926+ have, for the first time, exceeded 1 emA produced by an ion source. Routine operations commenced in 2007 with the Heavy Ion accelerator Research Facility in Lanzhou (HIRFL), China. Up to June 2017, SECRAL has been providing more than 28,000 hours of highly charged heavy ion beams to the accelerator demonstrating its great capability and reliability. The great achievement of SECRAL is accumulation of numerous technical advancements, such as an innovative magnetic system and an efficient double-frequency (24+18 GHz) heating with improved plasma stability. This article reviews the development of SECRAL and production of intense highly charged ion beams by SECRAL focusing on its unique magnet design, source commissioning, performance studies and enhancements, beam quality and long-term operation. SECRAL development and its performance studies representatively reflect the achievements and status of the present ECR ion source, as well as the ECRIS impacts on HIRFL.