The FlaMe Project Looks to Target More Efficient Production of Power Modules

September 07, 2021 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.

The Fraunhofer Institute of Silicon Technology (ISIT) in Germany has recently announced a new research project for designing and implementing flexible customized manufacturing technologies for power modules.

Power modules need to be designed smaller to help the manufacturing process. The FlaMe project targets production of power modules that are used for data centers, renewable energy, motor drives, and railway traction.

Example wafer that integrates Fraunofer’s IGBT, outside of FlaMe project, Fraunhofer ISIT has IGBTs targeted operating voltage set at 1200V. Image used courtesy of Fraunhofer ISIT.

Fraunhofer ISIT scientists and their partners plan to address the semiconductor industry’s requirements for providing economical, customer-specific power modules in small batch sizes.


Improving Manufacturing with Energy-intensive Technologies and AI methods

Fraunhofer ISIT along with several partners including Siemens and the Technical University of Munich have begun working on the FlaMe research project. FlaMe plans to focus on using laser-based wire bonding, plasma spraying, and 3D printing technology to target energy that is displaced during the manufacturing process. These new technologies allow for the process to become flexible and fully automated in an energy-intensive manner.

A portion of the FlaMe project will involve new components from Fraunhofer ISIT which are the insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) and power diodes for the FlaMe project. Fraunhofer’s IGBTs are projected to operate in the medium voltage range (less than 400V) with an ultra-thin field-stop which accelerates the majority carrier and lowers the saturation voltage. Creating a thinner device with low internal resistance.

During the manufacturing of power modules, highly safe and precise production is required, the team behind FlaMe plans to use optical, thermal, and acoustic sensors along with industrial robots in order to optimize the entire process to those high standards. The researchers plan to evaluate and process data by applying AI-based methods to predict accurate product variants. Introducing AI will help manufacturers pull away from spending time, maintenance, and cost on complex mechanical modifications since software adaptations will be the future.

Fraunhofer ISIT has based system simulations for modular converters with anticipated requirements of 1200V/200A trench field-stop characteristic. Image used courtesy of Fraunhofer ISIT.


FlaMe Promotes Energy-Efficiency and Sustainability

Focusing on silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor solutions for sustainability and energy efficiency is the main focus of Fraunhofer ISIT. Energy losses are reduced by over 45% when semiconductors are switched from silicon to SiC or GaN.

Inverters that are used in solar systems, power supply units, or data centers require designs that can withstand high-switching frequencies while providing low power consumption. The FlaMe project will be implementing SiC and GaN semiconductors to achieve the desired design specifications that will improve the amount of energy that a device can supply. These wide-bandgap semiconductors will provide a lower on-state resistance to reach high switching speeds.

Fraunhofer ISIT supports the development of miniaturized power electronics but equipped with high power densities, switching frequencies, and operating voltages through the use of wide bandgap semiconductors. Image used courtesy of Fraunhofer ISIT.


Overall, FlaMe plans to promote sustainable production through the use of different sensor signals and precision. The FlaMe project will improve production by having salvable and reusable materials that would normally be discarded as e-waste. Cutbacks on materials such as aluminum will also help in developing sustainable production with FlaMe utilizing more copper. Switching aluminum with copper will ensure higher power density and a longer lifespan for the power modules.

This also positively impacts the total number of modules required with a reduction in the raw material that is typically used. Avoiding aluminum and going with pure copper connections, provides design flexibility and can be reused quite easily. Through FlaMe’s efforts and anticipated results, manufacturers will experience a reduction in energy consumption while obtaining design flexibility in smaller power modules.