UK’s 1st Ever 300mm Fab Goes into Operation

27 March 2024

Cambridge-headquartered Pragmatic Semiconductor has made a clear statement of intent - to revitalise the UK’s languishing chip fabrication activities and put the country back as a major player in Europe.

At a ceremony earlier today (which was attended by HRH the Princess Royal, plus other dignitaries and investors), the company officially opened its new  Pragmatic Park manufacturing facility. Situated just outside Durham, it is the UK’s first 300mm fab. It will be focused on attending to growing customer demands for flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs) - enabling robust, cost-effective item level intelligence to be brought to a broad array of end products. This complements Pragmatic’s existing 200mm facility in nearby Sedgefield. The initial production line at the new fab will have a 4500 wafers/month output. An additional production line will be brought into operation in the 2nd quarter of next year. This will bring the site’s capacity to over 20,000 wafers/month. The site offers provision to add a further 7 production lines beyond these 2 - giving the company plenty of scope to ramp-up production as commercial traction grows. Over the course of the next 5 years its expects to expand its 300+ current workforce considerably - adding another 500 skilled roles to its overall UK operation.    

The polymer substrate FlexICs that Pragmatic is producing have significant advantages over silicon-based alternatives when it comes to their implementation in a item level intelligence context. They are ultra-thin, rugged, flexible and can be made to specific shapes (in order to better fit with end product form factors). By using these units, it will be possible to address issues like supermarket food wastage, pharmaceutical traceability, vaccine cold chain monitoring, smart bandages and recycling management, as well as the conducting of ant-counterfeiting measures. The more streamlined fabrication process involved, which relies on a far smaller number of process steps, results in much lower investments being needed to establish further fabs. It will mean that Pragmatic is able to place future production capacity directly at high-volume customers own factories if needed. 

As Shane Geary, Pragmatic's SVP of Manufacturing & Operations, explained to EPDT; "We can build a fully-functioning high-output cleanroom for a tiny fraction of what it would cost for a silicon fab. Our process is really simple and really fast, needing the depositing of only small amounts of material. This allows us to make ICs that are far cheaper than silicon equivalents."

"In addition to the lower unit costs of the ICs, their robustness means that they can be put on items where use of silicon devices would be impractical, as they would get damaged," adds Catherine Ramsdale, Pragmatic's SVP for Technology. 


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