New chip factory for more independence
We are all familiar with the hi-tech fruits of modern engineering - from smartphones and tablets to (electric) cars, games consoles and other consumer electronics devices. What many people don't know is that nearly all of these products also contain a small piece of Vishay. Vishay Siliconix Itzehoe GmbH, a subsidiary of Vishay Europe GmbH, is based in Schleswig-Holstein and is helping to keep the wheels turning in the automotive sector with its advanced silicon wafers.
The tranquil town of Itzehoe is home to a truly high-tech production facility. At Vishay, semiconductor wafers made from high-purity silicon - 200 mm in diameter, less than 1 mm thick and consisting of around 200,000 individual components - are processed 362 days a year. These wafers are the silicon slices on which integrated circuits, also known as microchips, are manufactured. They are ubiquitous in our technology-driven world - and are needed in ever greater quantities. The importance of chip supply was recently highlighted by the production and delivery bottlenecks in the automotive industry - without enough microchips, production simply grinds to halt and new cars remain stuck at the factory.
Each wafer undergoes up to 250 process steps in Vishay's clean room over a five to twelve-week period. The manufacturing processes for these components, which are only fractions of a micrometre in size, are sophisticated and require extensive technical expertice. "And a special working environment, which we have created par excellence here in Itzehoe," adds managing director Leif Hennigsen. The people who come and go here could be characters in a science fiction film, clad in white sterile protective suits with gloves, hoods and masks. However, these safety measures are not intended to protect people, but rather the product itselfs. "We have to ensure that not even the tiniest grain of dust gets into the structures on our wafers, not a hair, not a make-up grain, simply nothing," explains Leif Henningsen, "otherwise the quality would be compromised, the function impaired and the product could even become unusable." To this end, a special ventilation system is used in the clean room, the heart of the production facility, to keep the number of particles introduced - or created in - the room to an absolute minimum. "This room is one of the cleanest production environments in the region and is around half the size of a football pitch," explains Leif Hennigsen.
Production of power electronics has been up and running in Itzehoe since 1996. However, two decades is an eternity in this high-tech industry - which never stands still. Ever more powerful devices are demanding ever more powerful semiconductor chips, which are dispatched in a steady stream from Vishay in Itzehoe to meet the growing demand in the automotive industry. The Steinburg Innovation Area has become a real hotspot for companies involved in future technologies. And Vishay has played a big part in this.
Expansion from 2026: New semiconductor fab
Innovation is practically on the agenda every day here, not least due to the plant's "tangled knot" of energy and other supply chains. According to Leif Hennigsen, the company has now reached the limits of its production capacity. "By initially adding another 2,100 square metres, followed by another phase that will expand our clean room facility by a total of 4,000 square metres, we plan to commission another semiconductor chip fab based on the new 300-mm wafer technology in 2026." This will represent the company's latest milestone following its earlier switch to 200-mm technology. The planned expansion will enable the Itzehoe facility to double its production capacity and create 150 new jobs. And, by increasing automotive MOSFET production, to increase domestic supply security for silicon wafers. A complex name, incidentally, for a complex production process: "MOFSET" stands for Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors.
"From here in Schleswig-Holstein, we look forward to helping Europe become less dependent on chip producers in other parts of the world." The first construction phase has already begun. "We are creating the optimal conditions for the future of our company right here in Itzehoe," says Leif Henningsen.
Vishay Siliconix Itzehoe GmbH
- Location: Itzehoe
- Founded: 1996
- Employees: 500
- Services: Wafer, semiconductor production
- Branch: Automotive
- More information: www.vishay.com/itzehoe