Microchips with macro-impact
Fifteen billion chips. These are the production numbers of the NXP Semiconductors factory in the South of Nijmegen, better known as the Cathedral. The impressive chip-shaped building, located at Novio Tech Campus, accommodates around eight hundred employees and is one of the largest chip factories in Europe. In this article we examine how the components from this factory, amongst others, are used in industries and products worldwide that now shape the foundation of our daily lives.
We talk with Martijn van der Linden (Director PR & Communication) and Rob Hoeben (Senior Director of Marketing and Portfolio Management) about the most important markets for the company.
NXP stems from the former Philips Semiconductors, which started developing and manufacturing semiconductors in Nijmegen as early as 1953. At that time, several dozen people worked in the small factory on products such as transistors and diodes for televisions and radios. Nowadays, NXP has branches all over the world and employs almost thirty thousand people. The company develops and produces numerous semiconductor products for various sectors.
Regarding the high worldwide demand for NXP’s products, Rob Hoeben states: “Our integrated electronic circuits can be used for a wide variety of applications. The production of these circuits requires advanced process technology, which you may call the recipe of the chip. NXP further specialized this in such a way that it has become one of the top suppliers of these products worldwide”.
The components of NXP can be found in various products such as cars, mobile phones, computers and passports. The company focuses on a number of growth markets: wireless communication, automotive and Internet of Things.
NXP specializes in high frequency amplifiers. These are used in the communication infrastructure of mobile networks, such as 4G and 5G. The advanced amplifiers can amplify signals at very high frequencies without distorting the signal. NXP technology in this field can be found in both the transmission masts and the device that connects to the network, such as a smartphone or car.
For mobile masts, NXP is the top supplier worldwide for these amplifiers. Hoeben explains: “Our high-frequency amplifiers for mobile signals are very efficient and also durable. That makes them extremely suitable for use in mobile masts and devices. Worldwide, almost half of all smartphones also contain low noise amplifiers from NXP.”
Furthermore, the company distinguishes itself by a unique combination of two techniques. “NXP is the only supplier that combines HighPower technology in its portfolio with SiGe technology, where the elements Silicon and Germanium are combined to create the optimum property pin. This is a unique proposition in the communication infrastructure market,” says Hoeben.
Nowadays, more than ever, we use contactless payment options via, for example, our bank card or smartphone. This contactless communication technique is called Near Field Communication (NFC). This originated from Radio Frequency Identification, in which information can be sent via radio waves unilaterally, such as a tag to open doors.
With NFC, the communication is reciprocal, which makes many additional applications possible. As a result, nowadays you can not only pay contactless, but also check in and out contactless in public transport or exchange business cards digitally. The chips that enable such applications are also produced by NXP.
NFC is expected to play a greater role in preventing the spread of viruses in the future, says Martijn van der Linden: “Viruses can generally be spread relatively easily by hand contact. Via NFC, this can be prevented through the use of digital solutions for products such as savings cards and sales receipts. This not only offers advantages for hygiene, but also for sustainability”.
NXP chips in cars worldwide
More and more electronics are applied in cars. As a result, semiconductor components from NXP are essential for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, radar, sensors, car infotainment systems and smartphone connectivity applications and much more.
The multinational also plays an important role in the field of security in the automotive industry. For example, the NXP components are indispensable for smart cameras and distance sensors. “Depending on the luxury, every modern car in the world contains a few to hundreds of NXP chips produced in Nijmegen,” says Hoeben.
Driving without a driver
The Nijmegen chip manufacturer is the world’s largest supplier of semiconductors for the automotive industry. NXP’s technology plays an important role in autonomous driving. The first solution for communication technology for this purpose was developed by NXP. At the end of 2019, NXP was the first to implement this V2X technology in the Volkswagen Golf. Hoeben explains: “This smart technology allows cars to communicate with each other, but also with other road users and infrastructure around the road, such as smart traffic lights. This in itself is an improvement in road safety. But since cars can also receive information from sensors other than in their own car, it is even possible to anticipate (still) invisible traffic situations further down the road”.
For the future 5G network, NXP has the technology to amplify the signals undistorted. The company will therefore supply many amplifiers for the 5G transmission stations and the new generation of mobile devices. The concern is also working on applications for Internet of Things, which can be implemented in the 5G network.
“Such applications will make a big difference when it comes to autonomous driving. It also offers possibilities for monitoring the flow of goods, traffic and people. This can be used for countless purposes, such as crowd control and traffic control. But it will also make a future virus outbreak more manageable than currently is the case,” says Van der Linden.
What once started out as a small chip factory with a few dozen employees has now grown into a multinational with global impact. NXP’s billions of chips can be found all over the world in numerous technical applications. And given the global developments in the field of wireless communication, automotive and IoT, the company is expected to continue playing an important role in the future.