04. März 2021, 22:56 Uhr | Andrea Gillhuber
For cost-effective production, Infineon must always find the right balance between what is possible and what makes sense.
In Infineon's semiconductor production facility in Villach, 17 sensitive lightweight robots from Kuka ensure greater efficiency and safety in the production of the highly fragile wafers in a safe interaction between man and machine.
No, these silicon wafers are not a truly collaborative product: at up to 40 µm, many wafers are thinner than a hair while having a diameter of 150 to 300 mm. Due to the high surface tension, they are highly fragile. In order to turn these delicate pieces of silver, which together can have the value of a medium-sized car per protective cassette, into chips, they have to pass through up to 1,200 process steps. And each time they have to be transported to a different automated processing station. A clear case for robot deployment.
At the Infineon site in Villach, such power semiconductors are produced as are used, for example, in cars, smartphones, refrigerators or in server farms and drive units of locomotives. Infineon Austria, a subsidiary of the German Infineon Technologies AG, delivered 8.45 billion chips in the past 2020 financial year and generated a turnover of 3.1 billion euros. Pure future technology, which is also reflected in the research expenditure of 498 million euros, which makes the company one of the strongest research companies in Austria.
In Hall 17 of the Villach plant, Infineon produces chips on the sensitive thin wafers in a Category 1 cleanroom environment, which means that there must not be more than one dust particle in 28 litres of air. That is significantly less than is allowed in an operating theatre. By way of comparison: in the mountain air, which is considered particularly clear, there are around 100,000 particles buzzing around with such a volume. For the staff, this means: Access only in special, pristine white full-body protective suits via a special airlock. Skin and hair must be completely covered so that no scales can penetrate to the outside. Only a small viewing slit remains uncovered. Laptops and other technical equipment have to go through a meticulous cleaning process beforehand. Even pens and the sheet of paper for notes are particle-free custom-made items.
"With these extremely sensitive production conditions for our thin wafers, we have to think very carefully about which transport technology we use here," explains Martin Moser, Automation Team Leader in the AMHS (Automated Material Handling System) department at Infineon Technologies Austria in Villach. "Since various mobile units and always also people are on the move in wafer production, only systems that are extremely sensitively designed for safe interaction between people and machines come into question for the use of robots. And without any protective fencing at all."