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Bosch makes historic investment in semiconductors

Bosch has announced a €1billion investment in a new semiconductor fabrication plant in Dresden: the largest single investment in the company’s history.

The plant is scheduled to start manufacturing in 2021, and will focus on 300mm wafer technology, which offers greater economies of scale; with up to 700 associates involved in the highly automated chip manufacturing process, working to plan, manage, and monitor production.

The Dresden plant will be Bosch’s second wafer fab in Germany (existing one in Reutlingen) and the company hopes will help the company expand its manufacturing capacity for global markets.

In 2018, every new vehicle featured semiconductors worth £285 (source: ZVEI), and thanks to increasing electrification and automation, demand for chips in vehicles is expected to rise further over the next few years. By 2019, the semiconductor market will have grown at an annual growth rate of more than 5 percent (source: PwC).

Bosch claims its semiconductor business is growing even faster than the market, as it is focused on making chips for vehicles. The company currently holds over 1,500 patents and patent applications for engineering and manufacturing its semiconductors.

Chips for vehicles require tougher special components, as they are exposed to strong vibrations and extreme temperatures, ranging from far below zero to far above 100 degrees Celsius. Bosch believes its heritage in engineering means it can apply its deep understanding of the physical principles at work in the chips, of how to gather the data and of the vehicles themselves to ultimately integrate it into the vehicle systems.

Bosch’s current semiconductor portfolio focuses on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), ASICs for vehicle ECUs, and power semiconductors.

Power semiconductors are essential to hybrid and electrical vehicles, as they regulate the electric motor and make sure that the battery is being used as efficiently as possible.

Bosch believes its MEMs are the "sensory organs of modern vehicles". They supply a vehicle’s ECUs with important information regarding its handling, such as if the vehicle is braking or accelerating, or if it is skidding on a smooth road surface. The ESP electronic stability program uses this information to keep cars, trucks, and even motorcycles safely on track and in their lanes.

Continued strong growth in demand for driver assistance systems is ensuring that more semiconductors with more and more functions are finding their way into cars. Chips with built-in “intelligence,” known as ASICs, are tailored to a particular application; for example, signalling to airbags in a vehicle when they should deploy. These chips control handling to ensure a consistently safe journey. They also boost the measured signal from radar sensors, so that the proximity warning always functions reliably.

Bethan Grylls

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