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Crystalline silicon wafer that reflects light in all colors of the rainbow

High-volume production of capacitors

Smoltek has produced a quarter million capacitors (without carbon nanofiber) and has begun producing a new batch (with carbon nanofiber). This is huge because it shows that our high-volume manufacturing process works. It is intended to be used to produce engineering samples. You could read about this in a press release. In this article, we unpack what this means.

When writ­ing press releases, words are weighed on a golden scale. A lot of inform­a­tion has to be squeezed into a small space. As a pub­lic com­pany, weigh­ing the words to min­im­ize the risk of mis­un­der­stand­ings is even more crit­ic­al. This is how it should be. As a share­hold­er or investor, you expect no less.

But there are two sides to every coin.

The dis­ad­vant­age of these inform­a­tion dense press releases is that the big pic­ture may be lost. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees.

There­fore, from time to time, we will pick up recently pub­lished press releases in this blog and unpack their implications.

Let’s start with “Smol­tek has developed a pro­cess for pro­duc­tion of engin­eer­ing samples in high volumes which are expec­ted to be avail­able before the end of Q4 2023”.

Five news in one press release

If you read the press release care­fully, you will find five news items:

  1. Smol­tek is pre­par­ing for high-volume pro­duc­tion of engin­eer­ing samples of MIM-CNF capacitors.
  2. Smol­tek has developed and imple­men­ted a pro­cess to pro­duce engin­eer­ing samples on a large scale.
  3. The pro­cess uses 8‑inch wafers and mostly stand­ard tools.
  4. The pro­cess has been val­id­ated and found to work as intended.
  5. It remains to test the elec­tric­al prop­er­ties before the pro­duc­tion of engin­eer­ing samples can start.

We will go through each of these news items and dis­cuss their sig­ni­fic­ance. Let’s begin.

1. High-volume production of engineering samples

Our busi­ness divi­sion for the semi­con­duct­or industry, Smol­tek Semi, has for some time had a strong focus on com­mer­cial­iz­ing its capa­cit­or that use car­bon nan­ofibers to deliv­er unmatched capa­cit­ance per unit area and unit height. We call them CNF-MIM capa­cit­ors because they use car­bon nan­ofibers (CNF) to cre­ate highly tight-packed met­al-insu­la­tion-met­al (MIM) capacitors.

The road from the first capa­cit­or to mass pro­duc­tion is long, but we are approach­ing the goal as planned. We are now in the midst of an essen­tial step: pro­du­cing engin­eer­ing samples.

This step is sig­ni­fic­ant for two reasons.

First of all, it is neces­sary to offer engin­eer­ing samples because the big elec­tron­ics com­pan­ies don’t buy a pig in a poke; they require samples to test. Just like you test drive a new car mod­el before you buy it, they want to test drive new elec­tron­ic com­pon­ents before using them in mass pro­duc­tion. So, it is neces­sary to offer engin­eer­ing samples to sell.

This brings us to the second reas­on this step is sig­ni­fic­ant: It enables cus­tom­er inter­ac­tion. Next year, we will start sales by con­vin­cing elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ers to choose our capa­cit­or tech­no­logy for their designs. If everything goes accord­ing to plan, we will mass-pro­duce CNF-MIM capa­cit­ors before 2027.

2. Process for large scale production

We have been work­ing for some time to take the man­u­fac­ture of CNF-MIM from the lab to the industry. That is not a trivi­al task.

It’s one thing to pro­duce single CNF-MIM capa­cit­ors in the lab and quite anoth­er to mass man­u­fac­ture them on a large scale. In the lab, we can do pretty much what we want. But for high-volume pro­duc­tion, we must adapt the pro­cess to indus­tri­al stand­ards, use read­ily avail­able tools and mater­i­als, and ensure the fast­est, easi­est, and smoothest pro­cess possible.

We have come a long way in doing so. We have now imple­men­ted a pro­cess with our part­ners that enables us to pro­duce high-volume engin­eer­ing samples.

3. Standard tools and 8‑inch wafers

An example of adapt­a­tion we have made going from the lab to the industry is the intro­duc­tion of 8‑inch dia­met­er wafers.

A wafer is a cir­cu­lar sil­ic­on disc usu­ally used to make integ­rated cir­cuits, known as chips. Wafers exist in dif­fer­ent sizes, from 2 inches in dia­met­er to 12 inches. The choice of size is a com­prom­ise between pro­du­cing many chips in a single batch and the risk of los­ing many chips due to man­u­fac­tur­ing errors.

We have so far worked with 4- and 6‑inch wafers. But we have adap­ted our pro­cess to 8 inches, the industry’s most com­mon size in our new high-volume man­u­fac­tur­ing machine. We have also rebuilt our cur­rent machine so that an 8‑inch wafer can phys­ic­ally fit in, even though the effect­ive area is equi­val­ent to a 6‑inch wafer.

Anoth­er example of adapt­a­tion is that we mainly work with tools that are com­monly used in industry.

4. Validating the process

We have pro­duced a first batch of ten wafers with 27,000 capa­cit­ors each. That is more than a quarter of a mil­lion capacitors.

The man­u­fac­tured capa­cit­ors are met­al-insu­la­tion-met­al (MIM) without car­bon nan­ofiber (CNF). Thus, they are MIM capa­cit­ors but not CNF-MIM capacitors.

So why did we do a batch without car­bon nanofibers?

Pro­du­cing MIM capa­cit­ors on semi­con­duct­ors is a highly com­plex task. It requires sev­er­al steps by dif­fer­ent part­ners spe­cial­ized in their respect­ive fields. We wanted to val­id­ate that our part­ners could pro­duce capa­cit­ors with con­sist­ent prop­er­ties and good qual­ity in a stable and repeat­able way. So, by elim­in­at­ing the car­bon nan­ofibers from the equa­tion, we were able to val­id­ate that the pro­cess steps our part­ners make meet our high stand­ards. We are delighted with the results.

5. Next step: CNF-MIM

We have already star­ted pro­duc­tion of a new tri­al batch that is identic­al in all respects to the first one, except that we are now adding car­bon nan­ofibers. We expect to fin­ish this second batch before the end of this year.

When we receive the new batch, we will togeth­er with our part­ner YAGEO test the elec­tric­al prop­er­ties. We are ready to start pro­du­cing and ship­ping engin­eer­ing samples if they meet our high expectations.

What do you think?

Did this art­icle  give you a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the mean­ing of the press release? Vis­it our IR page on Linked­In and tell us what you thought of the post. The floor is yours.

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