Your smartphone and bank card might well be functioning thanks to high-quality electrodeposited copper foil produced in the town of Wiltz, located in the picturesque hilly Luxembourgish Ardennes. “We have a strong focus on high-end products,” explains Circuit Foil CEO Fabienne Bozet. “Circuit Foil produces 2% of the copper foil available on the world market, but 12% of high value-added products. Our sister factory in Hungary – the only other producer in Europe, which is also owned by our South Korean shareholder SkyLake Investment – uses our technology to produce foil for electric vehicle batteries.”
We have a strong focus on high-end products.
Circuit Foil’s products are also used in items such as hearing aids and pacemakers. Another important field is products adapted to ultra-fast transmission of massive amounts of data through 5G. “The high speed and security of data transmission are crucial for applications like autonomous driving or artificial intelligence-based medical imaging analysis and diagnostics. The development of products enabling such transmission without information or signal loss is a priority of our R&D department.”
Research partnership for next generation copper foil
Most R&D is done in-house by a multicultural team of 18 people. However, in order to push the frontiers even further, Circuit Foil has recently launched a massive three-year research partnership with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) aimed at copper foil production for markets driven by digitalisation and electrification technologies. The Ministry of the Economy, the National Research Fund and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research are financially supporting the joint initiative.
We are already working on materials for the future 6G network.
A first field of collaboration is copper materials for electronics and emerging applications. “Although 5G is not yet fully deployed, we are already working on materials for the future 6G network,” explains R&D Director Michel Streel. “Our plan is to produce ultra-thin copper foil with extremely low loss of electronic signal.” The €18 million partnership also covers work on materials for energy and transport as well as advanced materials.
Circuit Foil: Investing for the future
Circuit Foil currently employs around 350 staff members in Wiltz, with another 60 people at its plant in China. In 2020, the company decided to expand its production capacity by around 20% through the construction of a new production hall. “It was a difficult decision to keep going when the pandemic hit us, but we pursued the project as it is essential for our 5G foil production,” says Ms Bozet. She also emphasises the commitment to long-term sustainability. “100% of the copper that we use is recycled, and 92% of our waste is recycled – a figure that we are constantly working to increase. Over the past 10 years, we have also reduced our water consumption by around 70%.”
There is solid support for research, and government representatives are accessible and open to understand our challenges and to help us overcome them.
Although the cost levels are higher in Western Europe than in some other parts of the world, she sees many advantages with being in Luxembourg. “Recruiting talent is essential for us, and here we can find skilled and committed staff. There is solid support for research, and government representatives are accessible and open to understand our challenges and to help us overcome them. This is all very favourable.”
Photo: © Luxinnovation/Laurent Antonelli