Medical device manufacturer builds new plant to meet demand for pacemaker components.

A technician inspects a hybrid microelectronic circuit assembled at St. Jude Medical’s new production facility in Liberty, SC. Photo courtesy St. Jude Medical Inc.

St. Jude Medical Inc. (St. Paul, MN) opened a new assembly facility in March in Liberty, SC.

The plant is the company’s second in Liberty. It covers 60,000 square feet, including 25,000 square feet of Class 100,000 clean room space.

The facility will assemble hybrid microelectronic circuits for pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD). The circuits are about the size of a nickel, or half as big as the pacemaker itself. (St. Jude’s existing facility in Liberty, which opened just three years ago, makes capacitors for those devices.)

A hybrid microelectronic circuit is a packaging and interconnection technology for combining two or more semiconductor devices on a common substrate. The semiconductor devices can be bare, unpackaged die or miniature packages. The substrate can include deposited resistors, capacitors and inductors, or these passive components can be mounted to the substrate in chip form.

The hybrid assembly itself can be housed in a metal, ceramic or plastic package. A protective coating can be applied to the package, or the package can be placed inside a larger package.

The assembly line at the new plant includes equipment for component placement, epoxy dispensing, wire bonding, epoxy curing, electrical testing, burn-in and plasma cleaning. The facility currently employs 20 people, and that number is expected to double by year end. Over the next five years, total employment at the facility is expected to reach 300.

The plant produced its first hybrid component March 20 and is currently assembling 500 per week. By year’s end, the plant could be assembling as many as 2,500 per week.

The Liberty plant is St. Jude Medical’s second facility for producing hybrid microelectronic circuits. The first is located in Scottsdale, AZ.

“It became apparent three years ago that we would need additional manufacturing capacity [for hybrid circuits] to meet the demand for our products,” says Amy Jo Meyer, public relations manager for St. Jude Medical. “Additionally, having two different sites where the hybrid components are produced mitigates risk.

“In designing the Liberty facility, we were able to apply knowledge we have gained from the Scottsdale facility,” she continues. “We were able to improve the basic layout of the clean room and offer engineering better access. Both facilities are equal in size, yet the Liberty facility makes much more efficient use of space.”

Growth is nothing new at St. Jude. In June 2008, the company began construction of a 175,000 square foot building at its St. Paul headquarters. The new building will provide space for offices, research and development, and manufacturing. And earlier this year, the company’s Neuromodulation Div. moved into its third building in Plano, TX.

Editor’s note: With all the news of bailouts, layoffs and plant closings, it’s all too easy to think every manufacturer is stuck in the doldrums. In fact, there’s plenty of good news in manufacturing-if you take the time to look. This is the first installment of a regular series profiling new or expanding assembly plants. If you know a facility that’s opening, growing, investing in new equipment, or simply going great guns while everyone else is treading water, we’d like to hear about it. Send an e-mail to John Sprovieri, editor of ASSEMBLY, at, or call 630-694-4012.