Bosch is opening one of the world’s most modern wafer fabs in Dresden, Germany. In the virtual presence of Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, EU Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, and Saxony’s Minister-President Michael Kretschmer, the high-tech facility was officially inaugurated on June 7, 2021.
Emphasised as one of the world’s most expensive and advanced facilities, Bosch says production will start as early as July – six months earlier than planned – and semiconductors made in the new plant will be installed in Bosch power tools. Chip production for the automotive industry will start in September, three months earlier than planned.
“The new wafer fab is good for Europe, for Germany, and for Saxony. Directly and indirectly, it means many new jobs in a huge growth industry. This billion-euro investment strengthens Silicon Saxony and the entire European semiconductor industry”, said Michael Kretschmer, the minister-president of Saxony. On 72,000 square meters of floor space, 250 people are already working in the wafer fab in Saxony’s state capital. The workforce is set to grow to roughly 700 once construction work has been completed.
After comparing sites around the world, Bosch settled on Dresden, in the state of Saxony, as the location for its wafer fab. “Silicon Saxony” is Europe’s biggest microelectronics location and the fifth-biggest worldwide. One in three of all chips made in Europe is produced there. The site was built using a digital twin, with all parts of the factory and construction data recorded digitally and visualized in a three-dimensional model. The twin comprises roughly half a million 3D objects, including buildings and infrastructure, supply and disposal systems, cable ducts and ventilation systems, and machinery and manufacturing lines.
The company claims that all the data in the wafer fab – from machinery, sensors, and products – is collected in a central database, the result of which is that every second, production data equivalent to 500 pages of text is generated. In just one day, this would be equivalent to more than 42 million pages. This data is then evaluated using methods of artificial intelligence.
“Artificial intelligence is the key to further improving the manufacturing processes and semiconductor quality, as well as to achieving a high level of process stability”, Dr Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH Denner, said. In turn, it means that semiconductor products can go into full-scale production quickly, saving automotive customers the need for the time-consuming trials that would otherwise be necessary before the production release. Maintenance work can also be optimized thanks to artificial intelligence. Algorithms can precisely predict whether and when a piece of manufacturing machinery or a robot needs maintenance or adjustment.
Maintenance work in the Dresden factory also makes use of other advanced technologies, including data glasses and augmented reality so maintenance work on machinery can be done remotely. In this instance, a camera built into data glasses transmits images around the world, and the expert there can talk the associate through the maintenance process in real-time. This technology also played a role in ensuring that the machinery could be commissioned despite coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
Expectations are high for Bosch, on a national and international level. “The new Bosch wafer fab will boost our capacity in microelectronics. Microelectronics is the basis for nearly every promising technology, for applications of artificial intelligence, for quantum computing, and for automated and connected driving – which is also a Bosch speciality”, said Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel.
“The new wafer fab is the single largest investment in the company’s history. This cannot be stressed too much. Its size and additional production capacity alone are impressive. The very latest methods of data-driven continuous improvement in production make the Dresden plant a smart factory. To put it another way: in this plant, natural and artificial intelligence have joined forces with the internet of things to form a productive symbiosis”.
You can find more information about Bosch and its new factory on its website.