SAW COMPONENTS: Interview with Steffen Zietzschmann, CEO
How does SAW COMPONENTS Dresden view the location? What role does the Saxon microelectronics network play for the company? Where does joint location work end and competition begin? What conditions are absolutely necessary for future growth? Find out all this and much more in the interview with Steffen Zietzschmann.
But before that, let's take a quick look at SAW COMPONENTS Dresden.
- Date of opening: 1993, foundation as GmbH 1996
- Number of production sites worldwide: 1
- Initial investment cost: 2 million euros
- Size of the plant (area): 4000 sqm
- Size of clean room(s): 1,800 sqm
- Produced structure size: 250 nm
- Number of wafers produced per year: 20,000
- Size of wafers: 100 mm, 150 mm, 200 mm
- User industries (top 3): Mobile phone industry, sensor technology, bioanalytics
- Number of employees: 33
- Number of nationalities: 7
- Share of women: 40 %
- Sought-after specialists (top 5): Physicists and similar scientific professionals, application engineers, operators, SAW chip designers, front-end and back-end engineers.
- Skills sought (top 5): scientific knowledge, independent, goal-oriented approach, communication and teamwork skills, creativity and analytical skills, flexibility
© SAW COMPONENTS Dresden GmbH
Mr. Zietzschmann, what is the importance of the Dresden site for you?
As an SME with over 25 years of history, SAW COMPONENTS is one of the oldest still existing chip factories in Dresden. To this day, the city is the central administration and production site where all manufacturing takes place, even though the customer structure has changed completely from domestic customers to an international orientation with over 90% export quota since the company was founded.
In which specific areas have investments been made since the opening and what was the total amount of these investments?
We continuously invest in new technologies and opportunities. Historically, the largest single investment was the construction of the factory on the Manfred-von-Ardenne-Ring and the conversion to i-Line lithography in the mid-2000s. However, we are also currently investing heavily in trim technology, dry-film resist packaging, lithography and thin-film equipment, and the development of our bio-sensor business.
The investments since the foundation of the company amount to more than 25 million euros.
For which applications does the site produce? What exactly can the chips produced do and in which sectors/industries are they used?
Our SAW chips are used in a wide range of applications in mobile communications (RF front-end filters) - especially in smartphones - in industrial radio applications as well as in aerospace and in a rapidly increasing number of wireless sensor systems. As completely passive components, they are used in sensor technology as battery-free and at the same time wireless radio sensors for the measurement of diverse measurands such as temperature, strain, torque, for ID identification and furthermore also for the analysis of biological, medical and chemical samples.
There are now five fabs, numerous supplier companies and research institutes as well as microelectronics-related software companies in Saxony. In which areas is the network particularly important for your company?
We maintain long-standing close relationships with many other chip manufacturers and supplier companies in the region. In addition to the important infrastructure, the supply of spare parts and raw materials, this also involves joint projects and technical cooperation.
Are there any concrete cooperation projects with other players at the site, and if so, which ones?
These exist with several partners at the site and, as is so often the case in our industry, they are not public. We work closely together in the areas of basic research, production services, manufacturing and in procurement.
We are not the only ones concerned about the issue of skilled workers. The ICT sector in Saxony is currently growing by around 5,000 skilled workers per year, which, if growth remains constant, will be equivalent to more than 100,000 skilled workers in 2030. What role does direct proximity to other fabs play in the context of your skilled workers strategy? Does it make the location more attractive or the competition greater?
Both are noticeable factors. The size of the industry attracts many interested people to Dresden. There is a continuous fluctuation between the Fabs, which always creates new opportunities. At the same time, as the smallest of Dresden's Fabs, we struggle to be visible to these people and draw attention to ourselves so that we can enter into conversation and offer our attractive services.
Intel is planning a so-called mega-fab in Magdeburg. What impact will this have on you in terms of supply chains, service providers, raw materials and also skilled workers?
We are hoping for the settlement of further suppliers and service providers in the Central German region and a further increase in the attractiveness of the region for national and international skilled workers. At the same time, we can certainly assume that competition for skilled workers will continue to intensify.
What is your vision for the location? How would you like to develop it further?
Currently we are already in the process of expanding the production capacities in our fab in Dresden. Our vision is to make SAW COMPONENTS the cross-industry platform for thin film technology and lithography. We are evolving away from a pure SAW device manufacturer to a certified producer of nanostructures on wafers, micro-optics products, medical production and anything else customers want to produce on the special glass-like and piezoelectric wafers.
What are concrete support measures that are necessary on the way to this vision?
The most urgent issue at the moment is undoubtedly the containment of skyrocketing electricity prices. Especially for a small fab, the current developments are difficult to cushion and cannot be passed on to the products on the international market. In addition to this current issue, support for forward-looking innovations and the improvement of scientific education are of crucial importance.
Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. Zietzschmann.
This interview was first published as part of our NEXT magazine "In the spotlight: Microelectronics".
More interviews in this series: