Interview with Carlos Pardo, CEO of the company that wants to bring chip production to Europe
The Covid-19 health crisis has also triggered a wave of crises in other areas such as the economy and industry. The supply crisis has largely affected the food market, but it has hurt the technology industry the most. The stoppages caused by the pandemic have meant that factories have had to close their doors or have had to reduce their staff, which has led to a significant drop in production, for example, in semiconductors.
These almost microscopic objects contain the essence of practically all the technology we use today: cell phones, cars, household appliances, etc. Their manufacture is based almost exclusively on the production of chips. Their manufacture is almost 100% based on the Asian continent, but the company from Tres Cantos, KDPOF, wants to change that and be the pioneer in Spain in manufacturing these essential components for today.
“Europe only manufactures 10% of the chips made in the world. We are very dependent on Asia and, secondarily, on the United States. We want to do our bit in this transition to stop depending so much on Asia”, explains Carlos Pardo, CEO of KDPOF, the company from Alicante that already creates technology for the automotive industry and wants to move its chip factory from the eastern continent to Spain, or at least some of its processes.
Manufacturing Steps: Silicon Wafer, Assembly, Testing
The manufacture of a chip consists of three fundamental processes, the first is the creation of a silicon wafer that serves as the basis for the microchip, the second is the assembly and the third, which is the longest, is the testing to check that everything works correctly. It is these last two steps that KDPOF wants to bring to Tres Cantos.
“The manufacturing of the silicon wafer is a process that requires very large volumes to be profitable and a small company can hardly be profitable. But the last two phases, which are packaging and testing, the machines needed are relatively cheaper and can be done for more reasonable volumes, as we have now in the automotive industry. It is an exciting project; we want to create a capsule and testing factory in Madrid for large volumes,” explains Pardo.
KDPOF already works within the automotive industry, so its first chips assembled and tested in Spain would be aimed at this industry, however, they do not rule out the possibility of expanding to others. “At the moment, the biggest demand we have is from the automotive industry,” acknowledges the CEO, “but we are not closing the doors to other industries that would like to have very robust communications technologies, such as those used in the automotive industry”.
Hope in European Funds
Like many other companies, the company managed by Pardo is also pinning its hopes on the so-called European Funds, an economic boost that comes from the European Union due to the Covid-19 crisis, and which is especially focused on helping technological projects that give relevance to our continent compared to other already consolidated markets such as Asia or the United States.
“During this year we are already in dialogue with the European Union and the Spanish government for funding. And depending on when these talks come to an end, we will start the project probably in the middle of this year, although it may take a little longer”, Pardo acknowledges, “our customers would like to use the chips that come from this factory in 2024”.
“You have to keep in mind that to be able to supply the automotive market you not only have to be able to manufacture, but there has to be a fairly long period of qualification, making sure that the quality levels are adequate for the automotive industry. And that usually takes a year or a year and a half,” explains the CEO.
First Chips Created for the Industry
Technically, it is not true that microchips are not manufactured in Spain, what happens is that they are not manufactured at a commercial level, since currently all the manufacturing processes are carried out by industries such as the military, space or scientific. What KDPOF aspires to is to achieve a production line that will enable it to provide the industry with thousands of copies of this technology, with high quality and high performance.
“We would be the first company to manufacture chips in Spain in large volumes. We are talking about up to 10 million or 20 million units a year, at least”, says Pardo. A more than commendable objective.
The interview has originally been published on https://www.soy-de.com.