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CSA Catapult opens DER-funded packaging facility


Newport-based facility will help accelerate electrification across the UK

A new £1.6M state-of-the-art facility to help accelerate electrification across the UK has officially opened at the Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult in Newport, South Wales.

The facility’s cutting-edge equipment, the first of its kind in an open access setting in the UK, will be used by businesses to improve the performance of their semiconductor and compound semiconductor technologies.

Part of the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centre (DER-IC) South West and Wales, the site was opened by the Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, at an event attended by industry, academia and government.

DER-IC South West and Wales is part of the wider DER-IC network, which has four centres across the UK and offers open access equipment, facilities and expertise to the power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) manufacturing supply chain. PEMD are underpinning technologies that support electrification and will, in turn, enable Net Zero and boost the UK economy.

The new DER-IC South West and Wales facility can be used by manufacturers as a prototype facility for developing semiconductor and compound semiconductor advanced packages using novel 3D printing techniques and materials.

Advanced packaging is critical to the semiconductor manufacturing process. The package provides electrical interconnects, heat management and protects the chip from damage.

Without a robust and reliable package, semiconductor devices simply do not work.

The new state-of-the-art 3D printing equipment is the UK's first in an open access setting.

The equipment enables the integration of combination, mixed metal and ceramic printing technologies for chip packages, heat sinks and printed circuit board (PCB) designs.

The equipment includes:

A multi-material 3D printer that can quickly prototype novel packages using ceramic and mixed material for higher power and performance packaging; a 3D metal printer that can create fast prototypes for embedded packages and modules using copper or other conductive materials; and optimised laser system that can dice semiconductors and process ceramic or metal materials for novel package designs

Secretary of States for Wales, David TC Davies said: “It was a fascinating visit to the DER-IC and see this brilliant resource for UK PEMD manufacturers. The UK Government is proud to support the compound semiconductor cluster in south Wales, which is vital to our ambition for the UK to lead the world in science and technology. The processes being developed here means that the supply chain within the UK is strengthened, helping to protect the industry and fostering job creation.”

DER-IC South West and Wales centre lead, Paul Jarvie said: “The opportunities this centre presents to the PEMD manufacturing supply chain are significant. We’re inviting anyone in the PEMD supply chain who is interested in innovation and technology development, manufacturing scale-up and commercialisation, as well as skills and workforce development to engage with us.

“The new DER-IC facility, installed using the funding from the DER Challenge, allows industry to explore what materials it can use to create packaging that allows chips to reach their full potential within electric cars, trains, boats and other modes of transport. Our facilities can support manufacturers to de-risk innovation and attract investment in this area. We can help develop lighter, more energy-efficient components, which can handle more power, are less expensive, and can offer better overall thermal performance.”

Martin McHugh, CEO at CSA Catapult, said: “We’re delighted to officially open our new state-of-the-art facility and to showcase the innovative equipment that will create the next generation of PEMD technologies.

“CSA Catapult has significant expertise in advanced packaging and the addition of this facility will strengthen our offering to UK businesses, helping them to de-risk, improve their technologies and bring their products to market quicker.

“This new facility is another example of the UK government investing in areas in which it has significant strength, with compound semiconductors and advanced packaging highlighted as key strategic areas that will boost the UK economy and establish ourselves as a world leader in these fields.”

Mike Biddle, executive director for Net Zero, Innovate UK said: “As key funders of both the CSA Catapult and DER-IC, Innovate UK is delighted to see the opening of the DER Lab in South Wales, a first in the UK. It shows the impact that different areas of the Innovate UK system coming together can have. It’s another example of how we are investing in cutting edge capability in Wales to meet the needs of businesses across the UK, and against the commitments we have made in our collaborative innovation plan for Wales. The Lab is a cutting-edge resource for industry to de-risk innovation and strengthen the supply-chain – this will be an invaluable facility for the semiconductor sector and the diverse PEMD community.”

The centre has already attracted significant interest from major industrial partners across the aerospace and transport sectors.

Dycotec Materials is looking to develop a 3D printing process to improve performance, reliability and significantly reduce the cost of packages and modules for automotive applications.

Meanwhile, CSA Catapult and Carbon Forest Products are involved in a project to create a 3D graphite heat sink – a key component used to move heat away from an electronic device – for use in automotive systems.

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