Amid Automotive Chips Shortage, Bosch Announces 300-Millimeter Fab

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Automakers around the world have been facing shortage of automotive chips since the end of lock downs were announced in many parts of the world

Inside Bosch’s Automated Semiconductor Fab in Dresden

A single wafer processed at Bosch’s new semiconductor fab will be able to accommodate 31,000 individual chips. The production operations at the new Bosch semiconductor fab, are scheduled to start from late 2021. The company intends to focus on production of chips designed and manufactured for mobility solutions.

“Chips for tomorrow’s mobility solutions and greater safety on our roads will soon be produced in Dresden. We plan to open our chip factory of the future before the year is out,” says Harald Kroeger, member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH.

The company has revealed its plans at a time when the carmakers around the world are facing a shortage of chips. Several companies including the likes of Renault and General Motors had even announced halting of production due to the shortage. While Bosch alreay runs a semiconductor fab, manufacturing of automotive microchips will be a primary focus when the fully digital and highly connected semiconductor plant is up and running.

Yes, Bosch claims that the at its new facility in Dresden, silicon wafers are passing through the fully automated fabrication process for the first time. The company is investing around one billion euros in the high-tech manufacturing facility. Funding for the new building is being provided by the federal German government, and more specifically the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Bosch plans to officially open its wafer fab in June 2021.

300-millimeter fab

The technology in focus at Bosch’s new Dresden facility is 300-millimeter fabrication, in which a single wafer, as claimed by Bosch, can accommodate 31,000 individual chips. Compared with conventional 150- and 200-millimeter wafers, this technology offers the company greater economies of scale and boosts its competitiveness in semiconductor production.

“Moreover, fully automated production and real-time data exchange between the machines will make chip manufacturing in Dresden exceptionally efficient. Our new wafer fab sets standards in automation, digitalization, and connectivity,” Kroeger said.

Construction of the facility began in June 2018 on a plot of land measuring some 100,000 square meters, or roughly 14 soccer fields. It is located in Silicon Saxony, Dresden’s answer to Silicon Valley. In late 2019, the outer shell of the high-tech factory was completed, providing 72,000 square meters of floor space. Work then began on the interior and the first production machinery was installed in the clean room.

In November 2020, initial parts of this highly sophisticated fabrication technology completed a brief automated manufacturing cycle for the first time. The final construction phase will see up to 700 people working in the Dresden fab to control and monitor production and maintain the machinery.

Shortage of chips

Bosch’s Chief Executive Officer Volkmar Denner had recently pointed towards the car industry in 2021. The company had noted that despite the improvements in pandemic, only around 85 million vehicles will roll off the manufacturing lines this year. This number, last year stood at around 78 million, while the same was 92 million in 2019. The highest during the last five years or more was in 2017 when around 98 million units were rolled of manufacturing facilities.

Apart from the pandemic, Bosch had pointed towards developments such as Brexit and trade tensions between China and the USA might also imapact economic developments. Phil Amsrud, senior principal analyst-ADAS, Semiconductors and Components, IHS Markit had earlier said that the limited supply of semiconductors will not be resolved until both forces are aligned. China will be the most hit in the first quarter at nearly 250,000 units, as per IHS.

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