X-FAB plans a new foundry

15712571Officials from X-FAB Texas announced the delivery of new high-temperature implanter that will help convert the Lubbock facility that produces silicon wafers into the world’s first foundry of its kind.

X-FAB manufactures silicon wafers for automotive, industrial, consumer, medical and other applications. The new silicon carbine (SiC) 6-inch wafer is a technology that officials said will help drive the efficient and effective use of power in technology.

“Through the installation and qualification of this high-temperature implanter, we are now ready to support our SiC customers as they move from prototyping to volume production in 2017,” said Andy Wilson, X-FAB director of strategic business development. “This means that they will be right at the forefront of the transition of SiC to 6-inch wafers. The ongoing backing of the (Department of Energy) and PowerAmerica has proved instrumental in getting us to this next stage, helping X-FAB to make a major impact in relation to this exciting new technology and ensuring that its potential is fully realized.”

Officials from X-FAB’s collaborating partners, which include the U.S. Department of Energy and the PowerAmerica Institute, were present during the news conference. Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope, Republican U.S. House District 19 candidate Jodey Arrington and several Texas Tech officials were also present. Pope thanked X-FAB, the Department of Energy and the PowerAmerica Institute for its commitment to Lubbock and investment in X-FAB’s SiC project.

“It’s fabulous that we can become a ‘silicon carbide prairie,’ ” Pope said. “I want to celebrate X-FAB, their success and their commitment to American manufacturing and to Lubbock. The American dream is still alive and well in Lubbock.” Lloyd Whetzel, X-FAB CEO, said the majority of SiC products are produced on 4-inch wafers, but with the deployment of the high-temperature implanter, X-FAB will have the capability to produce the silicon carbide products on 6-inch wafers. Production is expected to begin in the first half of next year.

“The support that we have got from PowerAmerica and the Department of Energy have really helped us to accelerate that journey we have taken into silicon carbide,” he said. Whetzel said the company has had success with its 6-inch silicon product line, but said X-FAB had a need for other business activities to compliment and eventually replace its silicon products to help keep the company online in Lubbock.

“Silicon carbide is a major component of that long-term strategy,” Whetzel said. “When we finish the ongoing installation and start-up of the most recent tool, we will then have a complete production set that we can do all of the silicon carbide processing in-house. In the very near future, we’ll be adding as many as 15 positions, primarily in engineering. In the long term, one of the big keys is silicon carbide will allow us to retain the jobs that we already have here.”

Al Sacco Jr., Texas Tech Whitacre College of Engineering dean, said X-FAB’s facility will offer a modern and highly technical product that has not been seen. “Silicon carbide is state of the art,” Sacco said. “We’ve been making devices for a while, but not at this level and at this magnitude.” Arrington said he was grateful for companies such as X-FAB helping keep American manufacturing thriving in West Texas.

“I used to say to folks who came in from outside of this region, ‘Welcome to silicon prairie,’ ” Arrington said. “Now I have to change that to silicon carbide prairie. In order to commercialize technology you have to have good ideas, good people and you have to have capital. I think you have seen that with X-FAB, Texas Tech, the community and people like our mayor who are entrepreneurs. West Texas is a very innovated place … because we’re risk takers, we believe in hard work and we believe in stewardship.”

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