For almost four years, AT&S has been developing new technologies for highly efficient power electronics, more efficient production processes and sustainable resource management as part of the EU funding program IPCEI on Microelectronics I (Important Projects of Common European Interest). Now the new concepts, which will form the basis for sustainable corporate growth in the coming years, have been matured and integrated into production. AT&S has thus successfully completed IPCEI ME I.
The IPCEI program was conceived to support the development of strategically important technologies in Europe. The European Commission is preparing the legal framework to carry out projects of this magnitude. The funds come from the member states involved in the respective projects as well as from private investors. In IPCEI on Microelectronics I (IPCEI ME I) a total of 32 companies and research institutions from five member states worked together on key technologies for the next generation of microelectronic systems. A key requirement here was not to lose sight of a holistic perspective on industry. The specific projects of the individual participants therefore focused not only on the development of new hardware concepts, but also on improving production processes and more efficient use of resources.
With our developments and contributions, we played a major role in the successful completion of the second of five technology areas of IPCEI ME I – “Power Semiconductor” – which aimed to develop highly efficient power electronics. In cooperation with international partners, four major goals were set:
Functional Cores, New Packaging Concepts, Miniaturization and Advanced Manufacturing. Among the many AT&S developments, we would like to highlight new concepts for more efficient power electronics modules, the development of a sputtering process for the high-precision deposition of ultra-fine metal structures on panel-sized substrates, and the introduction of a unique recycling system that allows the recovery of high-grade copper from wastewater from production facilities. After years of intensive work, AT&S was thus able to announce the successful completion of all work packages of the IPCEI ME I.
Innovation is paramount
“The IPCEI ME I was an important first step for Europe to prevent us from falling behind technologically in what will be the most important industrial sectors in the future. AT&S was able to achieve decisive breakthroughs in the project that will allow us to play a key role in shaping technological evolution in the field of microelectronics. I am proud of what we have achieved in recent years, and would like to thank all the employees involved. We must continue on this path in Europe, with bold investments on the basis of internationally competitive funding programs like IPCEI and the EU Chips Act, if we are to remain a global leader,” says AT&S CEO Andreas Gerstenmayer.
The new technologies developed by AT&S are not only a promise for the future, but are already delivering tangible success. The processes for integrating magnetic components, which significantly increase the efficiency of microelectronic power modules, have been integrated into existing operations, and the facilities have been adapted accordingly. Thus, the technology is already being transferred to mass production by our engineers. The new sputtering system for high-precision application of metal layers to substrates has been installed and, after careful testing, can already be used for individual orders. The unique recycling system developed in-house was installed at AT&S’s headquarters in Hinterberg, where it allows copper waste from process effluent to be recycled in a way that conserves resources and energy. Other AT&S plants will also be equipped with the system in the future.
IPCEI ME II just around the corner
In addition to technological advances, AT&S is also reaping the rewards of its IPCEI ME I work in other areas: partnerships with research institutions and other companies are strengthening a European industrial network that will serve as a stable base for further development steps. The additional attention given to the participating companies and research institutions through their participation in IPCEI ME I creates public awareness of the extraordinary importance of microelectronics for the future of Europe as an economically competitive region. This was underpinned by events such as the “Austria IPCEI Day” with over 64 participating partners. The sputtering facility installed by AT&S is also leased as an open infrastructure to other companies, which can thus gain access to the state-of-the-art coating process and in turn drive technology development on an industrial scale.
Having successfully reached an important milestone for AT&S with the completion of IPCEI ME I, the company is now focusing on the next innovation steps in building a strong European microelectronics ecosystem with IPCEI ME II.