Australian company awarded grant to bring semiconductor packaging onshore

Biological sample tracking technology company Bluechiip has been awarded a $787,810 grant under the federal government’s Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, which will cover half the cost of a new semiconductor dicing and packing operation.

The company announced on Friday that it was one of 18 grant recipients under the program, which offers grants between $50,000 to $2 million to companies to “establish or scale a manufacturing capability or a related activity” to address a current supply chain vulnerability.

Bluechiip’s project is titled Automated Semiconductor Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) Device Singulation and Packaging and will enable it to take chips and package them with antennas, then made into “Bluechiip Enabled consumables.” 

MEMS are a semiconductor product, which in Bluechiip’s case are used in electronically tracking biological samples over a temperature range of minus 196 degrees celsius to 100 degrees celsius.

These are currently made at an overseas fab, with 3,000 chips on an eight-inch wafer. They are also diced and packaged into antennae overseas, with this to take place in Australia after the project.

“This is a great development for Bluechiip especially as we continue to gain traction in our target markets,” said Managing Director Andrew McLellan. 

“Under the grant we will set up a local production line that firstly separates and then packages the Bluechiip MEMS devices.”

McLellan cited benefits such as improved margins on some products, increased flexibility, an expanded range of applications, and bringing a unique capability into the country.

Days before the successful application was announced, McLellan wrote for @AuManufacturing that there was a lack of investment appetite for the kind of fab needed to make their wafers in Australia.

Although it is theoretically possible, the investment required is in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, also citing a lack of skills available locally.

“For Australia to embrace the manufacturing of semiconductors, governments and industry need to encourage retention and training of the right people, as well as investing in semiconductor manufacturing plants and processes. 

“We should start with a niche industry like semiconductor packaging, where devices manufactured on wafers are assembled into electrical components and subsequently included into devices and saleable products.”

Picture: credit Bluechiip

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