The central partner for business and science, politics and society
Since 2017, Fraunhofer FHR, together with another ten institutes of the Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics and the two institutes FBH and IHP of the Leibniz Association, has formed the cross-location Research Fab Microelectronics Germany, or FMD for short. For the first time, 13 institutes from the two research organizations Fraunhofer and Leibniz are pooling their expertise here under one virtual roof, thus bringing a new quality to the research and development of micro- and nanosystems. With more than 2,000 scientists, the FMD is the largest R&D association of its kind in the world. With its unique diversity of competencies and infrastructures at the institutes, it is helping Germany and Europe to further expand their leading position in research and development.
Transition to regular operation
Until the end of 2020, the FMD was in the start-up phase. The extensive investment by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in modernizing the institutes was completed by the end of 2020 / beginning of 2021, with the exception of a few delays caused by the Covid19 pandemic.
At the beginning of 2021, FMD started steady operations with the merger of the two offices of the Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics and the Research Factory Microelectronics Germany and the new head of the joint office, Dr. Stephan Guttowski. This transition was marked by the digital conference »Impulsgeber FMD: Angebot & Potenzial – Köpfe & Know-how« on April 22, 2021. The model of interdisciplinary and interorganizational cooperation in the German research landscape is already bearing its first fruits and is also intended to serve as a model at the European level in the future.
With networking and cooperation to technological sovereignty
In the meantime, the FMD is considered a role model when it comes to positioning the competencies of different R&D institutions with a common strategy and a bundled offering to industry. With its cross-location, cross-technology and cross-competence cooperation, FMD ensures that technological sovereignty is maintained and expanded along the entire value chain. The office in Berlin represents the FMD institutes and acts as a central point of contact for all issues relating to micro- and nanoelectronic research and development in Germany and Europe.
Versatile cooperation opportunities
In addition to the range of services for its customers from industry, FMD also offers a wide variety of cooperation opportunities for its partners in science and education. These are aimed directly at cooperative processing of research questions, such as joint work in joint projects and the operation of joint laboratories, the so-called Joint Labs. A major opportunity for cooperation in this context is the testing of special concepts and solutions from basic research on the facilities of FMD’s institutes in order to gain a better understanding of their suitability in more application-oriented environments.
Antenna anechoic chamber for complex radar systems
One of the key competencies that Fraunhofer FHR brings to FMD is antenna measurement technology. What are the properties of antennas for radar systems – for example, what are their directional characteristics? An antenna anechoic chamber, which was acquired within the scope of the FMD, will in future enable precise examinantions of individual and array antennas in the frequency range from 300 MHz to 50 GHz. The chamber itself has been completed and is already in test operation. Currently, work is still being done on the »range assessment« – i.e. on checking the test field. This involves the anechoic chamber being characterized according to specified criteria in order to be able to prove the quality of the measurements. Even the smallest antennas can now be analyzed at Fraunhofer FHR with FMD infrastructure: For example, on-chip antennas, i.e. antennas that are one to two millimeters in size and integrated on a chip.
Additive manufacturing of high-frequency boards
Another new acquisition addresses the additive manufacturing of high-frequency structures: These are metal printers and plastic printers on an industrial scale. While 3D printers familiar from home can only produce small structures and small quantities, these printers allow the production of volumes of up to one cubic meter. Another special feature: the metal printer is also capable of printing waveguide structures. The plastic printer also opens up numerous new possibilities: For example, printing antenna structures, lenses and housings.
Producing & testing prototype boards at short notice
FMD’s investment funds were used to purchase laser milling machines, placers and bonders, among other things, which enable prototypes to be produced quickly. This allows both subsystems and complete radar systems to be built. To test the subsystems, the boards are measured directly within the circuits in the high-frequency range up to 500 GHz using an on-wafer measuring station. Using the FMD equipment at Fraunhofer FHR, these subsystems can be measured in advanced development stages for their intended use up to one terahertz. Among other things, a low-echo anechoic chamber is used for this purpose, which can be used for tests from eight gigahertz. For example, the functionality of built-up radar front ends can be checked using test objects.
With the help of different software, the measuring devices can be specifically controlled with the desired parameters and evaluated on the receiving side. This allows Fraunhofer FHR to simulate various application scenarios for the subsystems and test them directly for specific properties such as signal linearity.