Mobility Solutions

The eight-inch wafer fab in Reutlingen A complex facility for tiny products

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  • March 18, 2010
  • Mobility Solutions
  • Factsheet

press release

At a total cost of more than 600 million euros, the new Bosch semiconductor production facility in Reutlingen (southern Germany) is the largest single investment ever made by the Bosch Group. The facility manufactures integrated circuits (ICs) and micro-electromechanical systems components (MEMS). These components also known as microchips are intended for electronic systems in the automotive industry, for the consumer electronics sector, and for the diverse field of energy management. The basic raw material is thin silicon disks, known as wafers, measuring eight inches in diameter. The production processes for these components are so complex that it takes an average of six weeks before a wafer has passed through all the production steps. Very fine structures are deposited on the wafers, which mean that the production processes can be performed only in cleanroom conditions. In order to achieve this, the air in the production area is subject to extremely intensive cleaning. The cleanroom class 1 thus achieved is comparable to a maximum contamination equivalent to an apricot stone in Lake Erie. External vibrations, such as those from road traffic, must not reach the sensitive production machines. For this reason, the outer shell of the production building has been built structurally separate from the actual core of the structure. The production facility is therefore a building within a building, equipped with particularly solid and thus very rigid foundations, walls and intermediate floors. Once construction is completed, which is scheduled for 2016, up to a million of these chips, which are just a few millimeters in size, will be produced every day. Approximately 800 people will eventually be employed at the wafer fab.

As in the neighboring Bosch semiconductor plant for six-inch wafers, which has already been in operation since 1995, the new wafer fab will produce semiconductors including, for example, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), analog ICs, and high-performance components. They are used, for example, in electronic control units for internal-combustion engines and transmissions, in the ESP electronic stability program, in airbag and driver assistance systems, in parking assist systems, or in night vision systems. In the future this will also include micro-electromechanical (MEMS) sensors, which are already capable of measuring the slightest movement. They play a very important role as sensors in the automotive industry. Increasingly, however, the sensors from Reutlingen are conquering the field of consumer electronics where they feature in products such as laptops and cell phones. For example, the tiny sensors control the on-screen display of cell phones if the phone is held horizontally instead of upright, then the screen display also changes from portrait to landscape format.

In addition to the new semiconductor plant for eight-inch wafers, Bosch has also set up a new test center at its Reutlingen location. There the semiconductor circuits and MEMS sensors are finally tested and programmed according to their eventual applications. In this way, Bosch guarantees that the chips perform reliably and precisely, over their entire service life in automobiles, cell phones, and laptops.

How is a microchip produced?

The starting point for the manufacture of highly integrated semiconductor circuits is wafers. In the production of semiconductors at Bosch, these thin disks are composed of high-purity, monocrystalline silicon. In a long series of different process steps, a large number of electronically integrated circuits is produced on each of these disks. In the process, materials are incorporated into the silicon, layers are built up on the disk, or structures are etched into its surface. This creates areas on the wafer which have different electrical properties, for example, and results in electronic functional components such as transistors, memories, capacitors, or resistors.

In the case of micro-electromechanical chips (MEMS), the structures must also be formed on and in the ultra-thin wafers in such a way that movement or air pressure can be measured by the component and converted into electrical signals. Bosch developed the necessary production methods for efficient processing in three dimensions and was the first company in the world to implement these methods. The new processes create incredibly intricate vertical-walled structures, produce moving masses and freely oscillating spring elements, or create dimensionally precise vacuum chambers inside the silicon. In the next production step, the sensors are combined with electronic evaluation circuits and are sealed over an extremely small area with an ultra-thin seal to protect against environmental influences. And this is all done at dimensions of thousandths of millimeters finer than a human hair.

The wafer fab key data

· Amount invested
A total of approximately 600 million euros for the eight-inch semiconductor production facility, including test center.

· Start of construction
Semiconductor production facility: September 2007
Test center: October 2007

· Laying of the foundation stone
September 24, 2007

· Topping-out ceremony
April 7, 2008

· Opening
March 18, 2010; up to full-capacity production in 2016

· Associates
When the building is finally completed, which is scheduled for 2016, some 800 people will work in the wafer fab.

· Shift model
Continuous-flow process for more than 350 days a year. In other words, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

· Total area
Semiconductor production facility (building Rt 141a): approximately 33,250 m2
Supply building (building Rt 144): approximately 4,930 m2
Test center (building Rt 201): approximately 26,800 m2

· Photovoltaic systems for power supply
Photovoltaic system on the roof: Peak capacity 102 kW;
Electricity generation 100 000 kWh/year; CO2 savings 52 t/year;
Photovoltaic system on the building facade: Peak capacity 61 kW;
Electricity generation 36 000 kWh/year; CO2 savings 19 t/year.

· Heat recovery
In continuous operation, the heat of production from the plant will be used in a closed circuit. It is therefore not necessary to use any energy for further heat. Every year approximately 3,500 metric tons of CO2 can therefore be avoided, which equates to the emissions from 230 medium-sized cars with a mileage of 100 000 kilometers each.

Technical data: semiconductor production

· Product
Eight-inch silicon disks (eight inches in diameter), known as wafers. In comparison with previous six-inch wafer production, this is a 1.8-fold increase in area per wafer and a cost saving of about 30 percent per

· Production areas
Total net area of approximately 40,000 m2, of which approximately 4,500 m2 is class 1 cleanroom space.

Factsheet_WaferFab Reutlingen - March 18, 2010

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