At the beginning of March this year, the first microchip was dispatched from Grundfos’ sensor department in Farum to the electronics factory in Bjerringbro, where it was integrated in a pressure sensor.
This was the start of theactual production of microchips – after approximately eighteen months of preparation in the production department in Farum.
The first industrial semi-conductor production in Denmark is taking place at the facilities in Farum. Production began after several years of research, carried out by Grundfos in collaboration with the Mikroelektronikcentret under the auspices of the Technical University of Denmark.
The technology developed and patented by Grundfos is a method to protect microchips. Microchips are already used in pumps and many other products, but Grundfos’ invention is the first to allow temperature and pressure measurements with small and very cheap microchips in direct contact with water.
The effect of the microchip is that a pump uses exactly the required amount of energy, because water pressure and temperature are used to control the pump. At present, the technology is only used in Grundfos’ own pumps, but spare capacity is planned so that the pressure sensor in the long term can be sold for use in other products as well.
The microchip production does not require much in terms of raw materials, but a lot in terms of qualified labour and huge investments in production equipment. At the moment, the cleanroom production in Farum employs only three unskilled/trained operators, whereas the remainder of the 24 employees in the department, divided between Farum and Bjerringbro, have Ph.Ds, are physicists, engineers and laboratory or other technicians.
Although we are talking about mass production, the quantities are small compared with the production of chips, e.g. for the computer industry, so it may justly be described as a niche production, suitable for a country like Denmark.
Grundfos considers the microchip to be an important strategic platform that is likely to become an essential part of the electronics production. Whereas the microchip is manufactured from silicon plates in cleanrooms in Farum, the pressure sensor, in which the chips will be integrated, is manufactured at the electronics factory in Bjerringbro. The coating, which is the protective device patented by Grundfos, and which also makes the microchip from Farum unique, is applied to the chip as an integrated part of the production, because the chip has to remain in the cleanroom until the coating has been applied.
Mass production this year
Silicon is an element that is available in large quantities and therefore cheap. At the same time, the pressure sensor is small and can be manufactured and sold at a much lower price than the sensors previously available. The cost of manufacturing one pressure sensor is less than DKK 100, whereas traditional pressure sensors cost between DKK 250 and 1500, depending on the application. Grundfos therefore expects a lot from the production that has now begun. Actual mass production is expected to begin at the end of the year.