The Bosch Group has announced that it has laid the foundation stone at Dresden, Germany, for its facility to carry out wafer fab. Wafer fabrication is a procedure composed of many repeated sequential processes to produce complete electrical or photonic circuits. Construction of this facility is scheduled to be completed in late 2019, when installation of the production machinery will begin, the company noted. The key technology in focus at this plant will be on semiconductors for automotive technology and the internet of things (IoT).
This new plant will lead to the expansion of manufacturing capacity with more chip applications. The Dresden facility will employ 700 people and will make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for quality assurance through connected manufacturing. This plant will become the Bosch Group’s second wafer fab in Germany after Reutlingen. The company aims to expand its manufacturing capacity, and thus boost its competitive edge in global markets through this facility. This is especially important as semiconductors are finding their way into more and more applications relating to IoT and mobility solutions, the company added. Bosch said that according to the market research company Gartner, semiconductor sales around the world rose by about 22 % in 2017.
Bosch said that the manufacture of semiconductor chips begins with a silicon disc, or wafer. The bigger the wafer’s diameter, the more chips that can be made per manufacturing cycle, it explained. The new factory will focus on the production of 300 mm wafers, when compared to conventional 150 and 200 mm wafer fabs, as it offers greater economies of scale. Semiconductors are very small integrated circuits with structures measured in fractions of a micrometer, and manufacturing them requires a highly-automated and complex process consisting of several hundred individual steps over several weeks. It takes place in clean-room conditions, as even the tiniest particles in the ambient air can damage the delicate circuits, Bosch further added.
The Dresden plant is expected to generate a very large amount of production data per day. In order to analyse this data to further optimise production processes, Bosch will make use of AI in the chip manufacturing. As a result, the quality of the chips rises while production costs go down, said the company. It added that planning and process engineers can access this production data at any time to accelerate the development of new wafer products or minimize tolerances early on in the manufacturing process.
Otto Graf, who will manage the new plant, said construction is proceeding on schedule, and following a rollout phase, pilot manufacturing operations are expected to start at the end of 2021. Up to 700 associates will be involved in the highly-automated chip manufacturing process, working to plan, manage, and monitor production, he added. Graf also said this includes modifying the production processes and evaluating the data from Dresden in Bosch’s global manufacturing network.
Dr Dirk Hoheisel, Member, Board of Management, Robert Bosch GmbH, said semiconductors are the key technology for IoT and mobility of the future. “When installed in cars’ control units, for example, they enable automated, efficient driving and the best possible passenger protection,” he added.