A clear path towards sustainable manufacturing: ams OSRAM nears building completion of a new opto semiconductor chip production facility

ams OSRAM is developing a new chip manufacturing facility in Kulim, Malaysia. By increasing its manufacturing capacity, the company is supporting the semiconductor industry’s efforts to mitigate pressure on the global chip supply chain, as well as meeting increasing demand for more advanced, energy-efficient chips for state-of-the-art mobility, computing, and connectivity applications. 

This increase in semiconductor production capacity must also take into account another customer requirement: sustainability. Customers increasingly want the products they buy to be both sustainable and sustainably produced. Eventually, the goal must be to eliminate CO2 emissions completely from the manufacturing process. Our customers set great store by their ‘green’ reputation, and the concern over sustainability extends to the products they buy: this means they should be manufactured as energy- and resource-efficiently as possible, under fair working conditions and with respect for human rights. 

Of course, all industrial and manufacturing activity inherently has an impact on the environment, and on resources. ams OSRAM has set itself ambitious targets to keep its impact as low as possible, for example by applying strict regulations to suppliers and contracted companies, and through a commitment to achieving CO2-neutral production by 2030. 

The new 8-inch Kulim manufacturing facility is an important element of ams OSRAM’s sustainability program. It will be the first fully automated 8-inch wafer fab for optical semiconductors in the world. Using the latest technologies and processes for high-volume semiconductor fabrication, it will mainly produce advanced LEDs and microLEDs. Alongside other elements of our technology portfolio, these optical products help to address global challenges such as climate change and the pressure on resources and urbanization, as well as helping customers to improve quality of life in domains such as health, safety, and mobility. 

Today we get right to the heart of the sustainability topic: how can ams OSRAM create a facility and manufacturing process that is both state of the art, leaves a minimal footprint on the environment, and contributes to the well-being of the local community? The new 8-inch manufacturing facility in Kulim, Malaysia, is designed to have separate spaces for chip and epitaxy production. The world´s first fully-automated 8-inch manufacturing facility for advanced LEDs, the Kulim facility gave ams OSRAM the opportunity to devise highly efficient uses for electricity, cooling and water. How did ams OSRAM limit the facility’s resource usage? 

Right from the start, the planning team worked to keep energy consumption and CO2 emissions as low as possible by optimizing the design of the facility and the way it was built, and through the sensitive choice of materials. The building’s shell and façade, for instance, were designed to minimize the energy needed to cool the buildings, and to retain cooled air inside the building. To achieve this, we implemented highly energy-efficient active systems such as air conditioning and mechanical ventilation. The use of LED light sources, which are highly efficient, was supplemented with intelligent lighting control schemes. In total, these measures will save around 11.5 GWh/year, reducing CO2 emissions by around 10% compared to those of a facility built along standard lines.

The quality of the indoor environment has a direct impact on people's health, productivity and quality of life and is therefore an essential part of our sustainability plan. In Malaysia, many people spend a large part of their working lives in a fully air-conditioned building. Therefore air quality, and visual, acoustic and, most importantly, thermal comfort must be considered in the design process.

We also wanted our new 8-inch manufacturing facility in Kulim to be certified under the LEED rating system. To achieve this goal, the energy efficiency had to be better than that of conventional industrial buildings in Malaysia. Our application to achieve the minimum target of a silver rating is currently being assessed by the LEED committee.

Semiconductor production consumes a lot of water. Since water is an increasingly scarce resource, its availability is going to become an important factor in the decision about where to locate semiconductor fabs to support a decentralized global supply chain. What strategy are you pursuing here?

Responsible use of water is very important. I agree that semiconductor production is quite water-intensive. We take into account the available resources by monitoring our sites, setting targets for reducing water use, and reviewing real demand annually. 

We have been in Malaysia for more than 50 years and have experience in dealing with the local water supply. When expanding this site, we placed a lot of emphasis on significantly reducing our water consumption right from the start.

Thanks to a highly efficient central water management and reclaim system, we will be able to re-use around 600.000 m3/year more recycled water than conventional water management systems can. This high volume of re-use is the result of high reclaim rates of more than 50%. 

In the new Kulim facility, we also have permits to discharge wastewater and, if necessary, to operate neutralization plants. These permits set very specific requirements relating to the quantity, temperature, and chemical composition of wastewater, all subject to strict verification. Some of the groundwater that we have withdrawn for cooling is returned to the source chemically unchanged. The rest is polluted and so has to be treated professionally by certified external service providers.  

Have you considered using alternative energy sources, for example solar energy? 

Yes, green solar energy generation is in our plan: more than 8000 PV modules are to be installed on the rooves at the new Kulim facility, including on motorcycle shelters and car parks. In total, this PV system will generate peak power of around 7.6 MWp, which will be directly consumed by our manufacturing facilities. Our PV system for green energy generation is still awaiting approval from the local power supplier to the Kulim High-Tech Park.

The worldwide share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources at ams OSRAM is currently 39%, which we plan to expand as part of our climate strategy. In line with its overall sustainability strategy, ams OSRAM attaches importance to the careful use of resources, environmental protection, good working conditions, health and safety, and compliance with human rights throughout its value chain - and reports regularly on its progress.