Plasma Control Technologies

The lasting high demand in the semiconductor market brought another record year for Plasma Control Technologies (PCT). Superbly positioned in the market, the business segment benefited disproportionately strongly from customers’ expansion of their manufacturing capacity, growing its sales by 53% to CHF 210.5 million. Operating earnings at EBITDA level rose from CHF 30.9 million to CHF 55.7 million and the EBITDA margin correspondingly increased significantly to 26.5% (prior year: 22.5%).

In 2017, Plasma Control Technologies marked its fifth consecutive year of record results. Applications such as big data, Industry 4.0 and augmented reality helped fuel the demand for storage capacity in the semiconductor market. Against this backdrop, the past investments continued to pay dividends for PCT: With its high-end RF power solutions, the PCT segment was buoyed disproportionately by the expansion of the manufacturing capacity of its semiconductor customers and thus achieved sales growth of 62% in this area. The equipping of new chip fabrication plants drove a 66% jump in PCTs sales in the USA. In Asia, where the Chinese market is rapidly growing in prominence through the building of local production capacity, sales increased by 32%.

Sales of the “cito Plus” generator (newly in serial production), which assures maximum stability even under top dynamic loads, were also off to a good start. In vacuum capacitors for the display market, PCT was able to expand its high-end business with external customers in Asia.

High volumes require expansion of production infrastructure

Compared to the year before, PCT widened its EBITDA profit margin by 4 percentage points. The reason for this increase was the high sales volume, which PCT delivered through maximum utilization of its existing manufacturing capacity and space. This, coupled with cost savings in the supply chain, led to a strong improvement in profitability. As well, the high volume of sales made up for costs of investment in the expansion of production infrastructure – such as added capacity in Shanghai and San José – and in product innovation.

Innovation for sophisticated plasma applications

To ensure further growth after 2020, PCT invested in the first expansion phase of the Smart Lab in Flamatt, a test laboratory that can perform automated analysis of large amounts of data in real time. The segment also invested in the development of a new modular RF power system platform. Going forward, this will enable the precise coordination of generator and matchbox during production and thus support manufacturers in the semiconductor market in making highly sensitive plasma applications even more reliable, repeatable and efficient.