X-Fab ready for global growth, says CEO

November 14, 2013 // By Peter Clarke
In the first part of this interview Rudi De Winter, co-CEO of X-Fab Silicon Foundries AG, reflects on the progress made by his company in a conversion to manufacturing on 200-mm diameter wafers in Europe and on its acquisition of 1st Silicon in Malaysia.

X-Fab Silicon Foundries AG (Erfurt, Germany) is doing well according to co-CEO Rudi De Winter, but as a private company it is not obliged to be very forthcoming with its numbers. The company is coming towards the end of a transition to 200-mm wafer production and sees scope for expansion in its current fabs and in particular at X-Fab Sarawak, its wafer fab in Malaysia.

X-Fab, best known as a European foundry focused on analog, mixed-signal and specialty processes, emerged from VEB Mikroelektronik in Erfurt, East Germany in 1992 soon after the re-unification of the country. The company acquired a few amortized, older wafer fabs and deployed a foundry service business model at a time when it was relatively new and mainly being applied to digital CMOS production.

The company, now majority owned by Xtrion NV a holding company based in Tessenderlo, Belgium, is focused on analog and mixed-signal processes and with much of its work in the industrial and automotive sectors the company was not as susceptible to the global economic malaise of 2008 and 2009 as some other companies.

"We're doing well. We've grown through acquisition. Our latest one was 1st Silicon in Malaysia. That was fully loaded when we acquired it but we had to find new business," De Winter said. The acquisition took place in 2006 and part of the transition was to qualify the fab for the production of automotive ICs with multiple customers. "The fab runs 200-mm wafers down to 130-nm. It's the next generation from what we have in Erfurt," De Winter said.

The Kuching wafer fab in Malaysia ready to take X-Fab to 180-nm and 130-nm.

De Winter said that in 2013 the Malaysia fab is at breakeven and that from now on he expects production their to grow profitably. "Manufacturing capacity there is about 20,000 wafer starts per month. We can further increase that to 30,000 wafers per month with additional