New alliance to accelerate advanced packaging SAN JOSE, CALIF.- A group of seven companies have begun a collaboration to accelerate the commercial development of advanced packaging technologies, such as wafer-level packaging (WLP). The idea for the organization, dubbed the Advanced Packaging and Interconnect Alliance (APiA), originated with Ultratech Stepper, according to Ultratech senior VP Ellery Buchanan, who is also the inaugural chairman of APiA. Ultratech, a supplier of lithography tools that has focused on packaging applications in recent years, saw a need for a collaborative effort to improve the development process in the advanced packaging realm. The other founding members and their areas of expertise are August Technology (inspection equipment), Casio Computer (WL-CSP technologies), Dainippon Screen Manufacturing (coat/bake/develop equipment), EBARA (plating technology and equipment), the Flip Chip Division of Kulicke & Soffa (solder bumping and WLP), and Unaxis Balzers (thin film technologies). The roster of companies involved so far differentiates it somewhat from SECAP, an advanced packaging consortium that was formed in 2000. SECAP, whose members include SUSS MicroTec, Semitool, Image Technology, the Fraunhofer Institute, Electroglas, and Matrix Integrated Systems, does not include providers of wafer-level packaging products. Instead, SECAP focuses on the equipment used for WLP and other advanced packaging technologies. Buchanan told Advanced Packaging, though, that APiA will not be limited to bumping technologies provided by the current members. As other members join and the work progresses, other approaches will be included. The first pilot line is being set up at the K&S flip chip facility in Phoenix, and it will be up and running in the third quarter of 2002. The second pilot line will be set up in Asia – in Japan, Taiwan or China according to Buchanan – with a target opening date in the first quarter of 2003. The APiA founding members intentionally include a geographic distribution of companies. With three from the U.S., three from Asia, and one from Europe, the group feels that they have the appropriate representation from the global advanced packaging industry. While both SECAP and APiA maintain that they are not competing directly, there is still some amount of a rivalry there. For example, the European member of APiA, Unaxis Balzers, was a member of SECAP but had to leave SECAP to join APiA. APiA is looking for associate members to bring further capabilities into the alliance. A range of material suppliers, for example, might extend the offerings eventually created by APiA. Buchanan thought that about 20 more companies might join within a year or so.