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Coherent Corp. Develops Ceramic 3D Printing for Semiconductor Thermal Management Systems

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Coherent Corporation, a manufacturer specializing in lasers headquartered in Saxonburg, PA, announced that the company has developed a ceramic additive manufacturing (AM) process that is the equivalent of its existing injection molding process. Coherent notes in the press release that the ceramic materials it has developed have particular potential for the next-gen semiconductor equipment market, as well as for chip packaging.

In 2022, II-VI, an optics corporation based based in Saxonburg (in the suburbs of Pittsburgh), closed its acquisition of Coherent, originally based in Santa Clara, CA. The resultant company now operates under the Coherent name. Prior to its being acquired by II-VI, the original Coherent purchased German company OR Laser, which is how the Santa Clara Coherent became the maker of the now out-of-production Coherent Creator metal powder bed fusion (PBF) printer.

While it is not clear if the Creator was involved in any way in the development of the new ceramic materials, it would certainly be interesting if the company saw materials development as a more profitable use of its platform, long-term, than would be using the asset to do business as a 3D printing OEM. In any case, this background coupled with the fact that Coherent operates at such a large scale means the company could easily gain an edge in the still relatively small ceramic AM market.

The out-of-production Coherent Creator metal printer

In a press release about the successful development of its ceramic AM process, Steve Rummel, the Senior VP of the Engineered Materials and Laser Optics Business Unit at Coherent, said, “Ceramic [AM] enables components that are lighter and with entirely new geometries, which are required for next-generation semiconductor capital equipment designs. Until now, these components are lower in quality and precision compared with molded ceramic components. With this new breakthrough, our customers will benefit from the best of both worlds. We’re moving quickly to establish a new ceramic [AM] line in Temecula, CA. We’ve also defined with our customers a strategic roadmap to broaden our AM capabilities, beyond ceramics, to a wider range of materials, including metals.”

Injection molded ceramic parts from Coherent

Any potential incorporation of 3D printing into the structure of the impending US semiconductor boom would be pivotal, if only because of how many times larger the semiconductor sector is than the AM sector. Beyond the pure scale of things like packaging, the possibility for leveraging AM in making and/or repairing the uniquely high-value machines and general hardware used in semiconductor production is equally significant.

Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is the fact that Coherent has developed with its customers “a strategic roadmap” for its AM activities. Considering its customer base is largely comprised of semiconductor companies, this suggests that AM is indeed being built into the structure of the next era of the US chips supply chain.

Images courtesy of Coherent

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