Infineon has officially opened its chip factory for power electronics on 300mm thin wafers at its Villach site in Austria.

The supplier maintains at EUR1.6bn (US$1.9bn), the investment made represents one of the largest such projects in the microelectronics sector in Europe.

The Villach site was opened by Infineon CEO, Reinhard Ploss, Infineon Austria CEO, Sabine Herlitschka, along with EU Commissioner, Thierry Breton and Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

Infineon announced the construction of the chip factory for power electronics (energy-saving chips) in 2018. “The new fab is a milestone for Infineon and its opening is very good news for our customers,” said Ploss.

“The timing to create new capacity in Europe could not be better, given growing global demand for power semiconductors. The last few months have clearly shown how essential microelectronics are in virtually every area of life.

“Given the accelerated pace of digitalisation and electrification, we expect demand for power semiconductors to continue to grow in the coming years.”

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After three years of preparation and construction, the factory was commissioned at the beginning of August, three months ahead of schedule. In the first stage of expansion, the chips will primarily be used to meet demand from the automotive industry, data centres and renewable energy generation of solar and wind power. On the Group level, the new factory will give Infineon additional sales potential of around EUR2bn per year.

“The new chip factory is an economic and technological lighthouse project for all of Austria,” said the Austrian Chancellor.

“I would like to thank all of those responsible for their commitment to our country, which will create an additional 400 jobs. The immense investment of EUR1.6bn shows Austria, as a business and technology location, offers excellent framework conditions and employee know-how needed to make them happen.

“We in the Federal government want to continue to invest massively in digitisation in order to position ourselves in the best possible way in global competition.”

For her part, Infineon Technologies Austria CEO, Sabine  Herlitschka, added: “With this investment, Infineon has demonstrated it is also possible to build attractive production sites in Europe in the highly competitive microelectronics sector.

“We are setting new standards with this investment. The energy-saving chips from Villach will become important core elements for the energy transition. We are thus making a relevant contribution to the European Green Deal and beyond.”

During construction of the factory, the company paid attention to ways that could improve its energy balance sheet: 80% of the site’s heating requirements will be covered by recycling waste heat of cooling systems and around 20,000 tons of CO 2 will be saved each year. The use of exhaust air purification systems will cut direct emissions to virtually zero.

Another milestone in terms of sustainable production and circular economy is the production and recycling of green hydrogen. The hydrogen required as a process gas in production will be produced directly on site in Villach from renewable energy sources starting at the beginning of 2022.

This will eliminate CO 2 emissions during the original production and transport. The green hydrogen will be recycled after use in chip production and used to fuel public transportation buses.

The new chip factory has around 60,000 m² of gross floor space. Production will be gradually ramped up during the next four to five years. More than two-thirds of the 400 additional specialists needed to operate the factory have already been hired.

“Infineon now has two large power semiconductor manufacturing sites for 300mm thin wafers, one in Dresden and one in Villach,” said Infineon COO, Jochen Hanebeck. “Both sites are based on the same standardised production and digitisation concepts. This allows us to control the manufacturing operations at the two sites as if they were one factory. We increase productivity and create additional flexibility for our customers.

“This is because we can quickly move production volumes for different products between the sites and thus respond faster to their needs.”

The chips are manufactured on 300mm thin wafers, which at 40 micrometres are thinner than a human hair. Villach is the Group’s centre of expertise for power semiconductors.

It was here production of power semiconductors on 300mm thin wafers was developed around ten years ago. This was then expanded to fully automated volume production at the Dresden site in recent years.

Use of the technology brings productivity advantages due to the larger wafer diameter and reduces capital expenditure.