Semiconductor 2.0 - printed semiconductor factory opens
By Mike Hanlon
March 14, 2007
March 15, 2007 Nanoident has opened the world’s first manufacturing facility for printed semiconductor-based optoelectronics. The factory will offer high-volume production and will use the company’s Semiconductor 2.0 Platform to deliver printed semiconductor-based products. With its environmentally friendly production process, the OFAB can produce printed electronic devices quickly and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional silicon-based semiconductor fab. The technology will yield cost-effective, custom designed devices for applications such as industrial, chemical, biological, biometric and X-ray sensors, printed OLED displays for smart packaging and electronic signage. According to c/net news, a traditional factory that can produce 40,000 square meters of silicon computer chips would cost about $1.3 billion and require about 5,000 employees. The Nanoident factory costs about $10 million and can be run by about 50 people.
“Just as we can’t imagine our lives today without electronic devices that rely on silicon-based semiconductors, in the near future the same will apply to printed electronics-based applications,” said Craig Cruickshank, principal analyst at cintelliq. “Nanoident’s OFAB opening is a significant step forward to making the vision of printed electronics a reality with the first of what will be a growing number of printed electronics facilities worldwide.”
With the company’s Semiconductor 2.0 Platform technology and OFAB production facility, Nanoident is enabling new, innovative solutions in a wide range of markets, including consumer, industrial, life sciences and security, that were previously cost-prohibitive or simply not able to be created due to the physical constraints of silicon. Moreover, expensive masks, wasted material and dangerous acids used for etching are not needed with printed electronics. Toxic materials are not used in the OFAB, making it a green production process.
“The OFAB opening marks a major industry achievement by bringing a new class of printed electronics from the lab to the fab,” said Klaus G. Schroeter, CEO, Nanoident. “Printed semiconductor-based optoelectronic devices created by the OFAB will usher in an era of new application types — traditionally not well-suited for silicon — which will improve healthcare, enhance personal and homeland security, as well as drive new industrial applications. These applications are just the beginning, as we look forward to driving continued advancements for printed devices that will enhance peoples’ lives.”
Nanoident’s OFAB is fitted with a class 100 cleanroom (less than 100 half-micrometer particles per cubic foot). To produce printed electronics at the OFAB, nanomaterials are deposited onto a substrate using advanced printing methods. The process is extremely fast. For example, traditional chip manufacturing takes approximately two to three months. In the OFAB, the entire process can be completed in hours or days, depending on the application. Prototypes and volume production can be run on the same equipment, which allows for highly customized devices. Production capacity can easily be scaled as needed by adding more equipment.
The Nanoident OFAB workflow includes: * Design - Printed electronics uses many of the same electronic design automation (EDA) tools as conventional integrated circuit (IC) design. The finished layout is translated into files that are read by the printing equipment. * Materials Management - All materials are subjected to a variety of sophisticated chemical, electrical and mechanical tests. * Ink Formulation - The “printing inks” used in the OFAB consist of conducting and semiconducting conjugated polymers and/or other nanomaterials that are formulated into solvents, which serve as the functional layers for the printed electronic device. * Substrate Preparation - Before printing, the substrate must be cleaned and treated to promote adhesion. Printed electronics can use virtually any substrate, including glass, plastic foil, ceramic or even silicon for a complex hybrid system. The substrate can have a variety of mechanical properties - rigid or flexible, flat or curved, thick or as thin as 20 micrometers (one-fifth the thickness of standard paper). * Functional Layer 1 – n - Printing is done one layer at a time (semiconductor, conductor, insulator, resistor and dielectric), each deposited using an advanced printing system. With feature sizes as small as 10 micrometers, the layers must align precisely for the device to function properly, so the substrate is mounted on an X-Y table, a precision instrument with high-speed linear motors enabling precise control with sub-micrometer accuracy. * Curing - Each layer must be dry before subsequent layers are printed. * Dicing - Just as in a silicon fab, many devices can be printed on one substrate. Once all layers have been printed and cured, a computer-controlled laser or glass dicing system precisely cuts the individual pieces apart. All devices then go through an automated electrical/optical test. * Assembly (optional) - If needed, other components such as a microcontroller, can be attached for complex hybrid systems. * Packaging - Printed electronics do not generally require traditional, molded plastic chip packaging. In many applications the substrate is the component packaging.
Nanoident’s core technology merges the latest breakthroughs in materials science and nanotechnology with modern printing techniques to create a new class of semiconductor devices. The revolutionary Semiconductor 2.0 Platform is the basis of the world’s first commercial printed photonic sensors, enabling a whole new generation of applications in the industrial, biometric and life science markets.
Nanoident’s high-speed, environmentally friendly manufacturing process utilizes liquid nanomaterials and additive production techniques. These liquids are used to print electronic circuits on a wide variety of surfaces, producing products in mere hours for prototype as well as high-volume applications. The company’s printed semiconductor devices can be bendable, disposable, light, ultra-thin and large area. They have application specific spectral and electronic properties and can contain light sources and light detectors as well as electronic circuits. These unique characteristics enable cost-effective, custom designed devices for applications such as industrial, chemical, biological, biometric and X-ray sensors, printed OLED displays for smart packaging and electronic signage.