AT&S officially opens new plant and largest single investment in China

Published On: April 21, 20165.7 min read1147 words
  • After Shanghai, another production site opened in China: in the world‘s largest city, Chongqing
  • Largest single investment of the AT&S Group, totalling € 480 million; currently 1,700 employees
  • Key element in the expansion of technology leadership and further profitable growth of AT&S
  • Official opening ceremony with more than 100 guests from politics and business

AT&S, one of the global technology leaders in high-end printed circuit boards (PCBs), officially opened a new production site in Chongqing, Central China, with a ceremony on April 19.

The site consists of two plants: plant 1 started serial production with one production line in February; plant 2 is currently still being set up. With a total investment volume of roughly € 480 million by 2017, this will be the largest single investment of AT&S to date.

The opening ceremony took place in the presence of representatives of official China and Austria, business, the media, the city of Chongqing, customers, the Supervisory Board and the management of AT&S. The Austrian ambassador in Beijing, Irene Giner-Reichl, Chongqing’s mayor, Huang Qifan, as well as AT&S Supervisory Board Chairman, Hannes Androsch, and CEO Andreas Gerstenmayer held speeches. After the ceremony, selected guests had the opportunity to visit parts of clean room production.

“Chongqing is a key element in the future of AT&S with a view to both technology and positioning, and to further profitable growth. With this plant, we are the first high-end IC substrate manufacturer in China and thus focus on the microelectronics emphasis pursued by the Chinese government at an early stage. Based on the new technologies, combined with the existing high-end technologies, the result is ‘more than AT&S’: we can offer the market new high-end connectivity and advanced packaging solutions and comprehensively position ourselves in the rapidly changing environment of the electronics industry with innovative technologies like IC substrates and wafer level packages for functional modules and the Internet of things. From the PCB top league to the connectivity solution and packaging Champions League, as it were“, says Andreas Gerstenmayer, CEO of AT&S, and adds: “In the medium term, this will entail a new company dimension with revenue of roughly one billion, which will help us to finance future investments from our own cash flow to a greater extent. However, we expect a negative impact during the start-up phase.”

At plant 1, AT&S produces IC substrates, the connection between microchips and printed circuit boards, which are used for microprocessors in computing. Since the start of serial production in late February, the gradual expansion of capacity and the increase in production volume of the complex technology have been proceeding well. From the end of the calendar year 2016, AT&S will gradually start up the second production line for IC substrates. Overall, AT&S will invest roughly € 280 million in property, plant and equipment for this technology by mid-2017.

In addition, the Chongqing site will be extended by a second plant for the latest generation of high-end printed circuit boards, i.e., substrate-like PCBs in order to be able to offer advanced packaging solutions at wafer level. This plant will start production with the first production line in the second half of the calendar year 2016, and with a second production line next year.

Roughly € 200 million will be invested in property, plant and equipment at this plant.

Chen Jian Phua, CEO of the Business Unit Mobile Devices & Substrates, who has been responsible for the establishment of the sites in Shanghai and Chonqing for 12 years for AT&S in leading management positions, outlines the complexity of the technology and the framework conditions: “The new IC substrate technology is not comparable to any technology previously used by AT&S: new, extremely complex production processes in 100 percent cleanroom conditions, new materials as well as a new team, which had to build up know-how in a very short time. We are very proud that we have managed to achieve all this on a very tight schedule. We also invested more than 670,000 hours in training the roughly 1,700 employees who currently work in Chongqing. Sustainable and comprehensive investments in environmental protection have always been important to us at all locations; in Chongqing, about € 24 million have been invested in this area.“ 

What are IC substrates and what are they used for? IC substrates serve as a connection between the semiconductor (chips) and PCBs, they “transmit” the nano-structures of the chip onto the PCB (micrometre structures) and are used in microprocessors for computers, communication, automotive and industrial applications. In comparison with PCBs, IC substrates have much finer structures (approx. 40 micrometres vs. approx. 12 micrometres), and different basic materials as well as different production processes are used. Depending on the application, there is a wide variety of substrate technologies with different assemblies and performance requirements.

What are substrate-like PCBs and what are they used for? Substrate-like PCBs are the evolution of high-end PCBs. Their structures are even finer with about 20-30 micrometres and they have significantly more connectors. They are the prerequisite for new packaging solutions (for example, several chips and electronic components are not separately assembled to the PCB, but the components are mounted to the chips and are combined in a package), which are in turn used for wearables and other potential Internet-of-Things solutions.

What are Advanced Packages/ Wafer Level Packages and what are they used for? Advanced Packages refers to solutions used to package electronic components such as chips and other components together and then assemble them onto or in the printed circuit board. Wafer Level Packaging is the technology of packaging an integrated circuit while still on a wafer format (a thin slice of semiconductor material – like crystalline silicon).

Fact & figures on AT&S in Chongqing:

  • Total investment of € 480 million for two plants by mid-2017:

Approx. € 280 million for two production lines for IC substrates (FCBGA substrates)

Approx. € 200 million for two production lines for substrate-like PCBs (SLP)

  • Start of first production line for IC substrates in Q4 of the financial year 2015/16 (1/1 – 31/3/2016)
  • Start of the second production line for IC substrates expected for Q3 of the financial year 2016/17 (1/10 – 31/12/2016)
  • Start of the first production line for substrate-like PCBs in the second half of the calendar year 2016.

Fact & figures on AT&S in China:

  • AT&S investment in China by December 31, 2015: € 870 million
  • Roughly 5,900 employees in China
  • Since 2000 present in China with a high-end plant in Shanghai for PCBs for mobile devices and automotive applications (capital expenditure of roughly € 630 million in four stages)
  • Benchmark of the PCB industry in China with seval awards for environmental protection, safety, education and social matters
  • New site in Chongqing with two plants and a total of four production lines with an investment in property, plant and equipment totalling € 480 million
  • Factors for competitiveness: high-end production in China combined with European innovative power and governance as well as absolute quality and customer orientation