Robert Bosch, the Germany technology and parts supplier opened a $1.2 billion chip factory in Dresden, Germany. This is the single largest investment in the company’s history. The writing is on the wall signaling that connected and electric vehicles are a permanent part of automotive business. Bosch’s executive Vice President of automotive electronics Jens Fabrowsky told TechCrunch, “Regardless of which powertrain we talk about…always we need a semiconductor and sensor.”
This plant will handle front-of-the-line processing, or wafer fabrication, in the semiconductor manufacturing process. The 300-millimeter wafers will be sent to partners, typically in Asia, to do packaging and assembly of the semiconductors. Fabrowsky explained that this is a “new field of technology” compared to the 150- or 200-millimeter wafers produced at Bosch’s nearby factory in Reutlingen, Germany. The larger wafer size offers greater economies of scale because you can produce more individual chips per wafer.
Bosch calls the 77,500-square-foot plant running on “AIoT,” a term combining artificial intelligence and Internet of Things to denote a fully connected and data-driven system that’s unique to the facility. This will give Bosch real time data on the approximately 100 machines, but also on the power, water and other aspects of the facility creating up to 500 pages of data per second. The AI-driven algorithm should detect an anomaly from any of the connected sensors immediately. Even at the high level of automation, it still employs around 700 people when fully operational.
At this point it is unclear whether the plant will help resolve the ongoing global semiconductor shortage, which has forced automakers like General Motors and Ford to slash production volumes and temporarily shutdown manufacturing facilities. Fabrowsky said, “At the point when we decided (to build the plant) it was purely driven by technology. It was clear we needed to go into 300 millimeters, and we needed to invest in some more capacity.” He continued to confirm the facility will begin production in July with chips for power tools before beginning production on automotive chips in September. It takes around twenty weeks to make a semiconductor, including 600 individual steps in the wafer facility alone.
Monday, Bosch board member Harald Kroeger, announced at a media briefing, the company will be investing $61 million to extend the clean room facilities at its Reutlingen plant. Bosch has applied to Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy under a microelectronics investment program to subsidize expenditures for the plant of up to $244 million. The company must submit evidence of expenditures before it receives the funds.