Circuitwise is pleased to announce it has received a grant from the Australian Government in Round 2 of the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI). A grant of $2,000,000 was awarded to assist the company to upgrade its electronics manufacturing technology.
The upgrade is aimed at enabling the placement of custom chips directly onto printed circuit boards. This new capability will be supported with additional equipment for high-speed product testing as well as clean room facilities for implantable electronics.
Circuitwise CEO Serena Ross said the investment would place Circuitwise among an elite group of companies globally that offered these kinds of services, particularly those that also offer ISO 13485 certified manufacturing of medical device products.
The core technology underpinning this step-change in capability is flip-chip machinery, which is targeted at companies designing products with custom-designed semiconductors such as Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC). Associated advanced automation software will facilitate programming the placement of ASICS on Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBA).
The flip-chip machine will be complemented with a combined underfill and conformal coating station which is required to protect and support the performance of the custom chip on the PCBA. Epoxy underfill ensures the mechanical integrity of the naked chip, reduces thermal stresses on solder joints, avoids moisture ingress and, in some cases, stabilises the performance characteristics of any on-chip sensors.
A key limiting factor for manufacturing products with custom semiconductors in Australia is the time it takes to conduct electrical and functional tests of the device coming off the production line. Designing custom semiconductors, and the associated wafer fabrication, is usually only profitable at very high volumes, in the order of several hundred thousand units a year or millions.
To make testing at high volumes affordable, this grant project also includes the installation of a flying probe machine combined with a 3D optical inspection station. A range of robotic and automated transfer equipment along the assembly line will further reduce manufacturing costs for our clients.
This core technology is only the start of this expansive capability upgrade. The market for custom semiconductor product design is projected to grow with the support of the newly created Semiconductor Sector Service Bureau (SSSB). So Circuitwise is also investing in a range of complementary equipment that will support the commercial manufacturing of the full range of manufacturing techniques for customer semiconductors.
Other machinery to be purchased under this grant includes equipment to enable wire bonding and wire pull testing. We will also purchase a specialised die placement machine that further automates and accelerates the process, as well as greatly expanding the range of die placement methods and options we can offer.
Much of the market for devices with custom semiconductors also requires the above equipment to be operated in a clean room. For example, this is required in the manufacture of sterile devices which is critical for servicing the implantable medical devices market. Under this project, Circuitwise will be installing a clean room, with associated air pressurisation equipment.
Similarly, there are many applications for this technology in the Australian aviation, defence and space industries. As part of this project will be pursuing AS 9100 Rev D quality management certifications which companies from these industries typically require.
While some of these technologies outlined above are available in university labs and a few very large original equipment manufacturers, Circuitwise will be filling a gap in the commercial services available in Australia for this step in the semiconductor value chain.
Globally, there are very few contract electronics manufacturing companies that can offer these services with ISO 13485 certification for medical devices. Circuitwise will be investing nearly $5 million in new technologies to underpin its place at the cutting edge of electronics manufacturing capability.
The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative assists businesses to establish or scale a manufacturing capability to address supply chain vulnerabilities for a critical product or input identified in the Sovereign Manufacturing Capability Plan. In Round 2 the semiconductor industry was one of two areas targeted.
Circuitwise looks forward to working with the Semiconductor Sector Service Bureau to help support Australian companies aiming to take on the world with innovative custom semiconductor designs.