Author Archives: sdavis

IFTLE 312 Mergers, Acquisitions and Rumors; IMAPS 2016

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Before we take our first look at IMAPS 2016, let’s first look at some recent merger announcements and rumors which continue unabated.

ASE / Siliconware

Despite the recent approval by Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission the proposed merger between ASE and SPIL continues to be reviewed by anti-trust authorities in China and the US. It is reported that it is unlikely to gain approval from the two major markets until the end of 2017. [link] ASE and SPIL agreed to merge through the formation of a parent holding company. The holding company would own ASE and SPIL.

The merger would create the world’s largest IC assembly & test company and widen the market gap with rival rivals such as Amkor China-based Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology (JCET).

Earlier in 2016 Digitimes reported rumors that Amkor is being targeted for acquisitionby China’s Nantong Fujitsu Microelectronics (NFME). NFME previously acquired an 85% share of AMD’s backend operations in Penang, Malaysia and Suzhou, China for $371 MM.

Qualcomm / NXP

As we discussed in IFTLE 306 [“Qualcomm acquisition of NXP ?…”] , Qualcomm agreed to acquire NXP Semiconductors for $38.5 billion. This will give Qualcomm a presence in the chips for smart cars market.

Siemens / Mentor Graphics

Siemens and Mentor Graphics announced that they have entered into a merger agreement under which Siemens will acquire Mentor for $4.5B. Siemens is acquiring Mentor as part of its Vision 2020 concept. Mentor is expected to complement Siemens offering sin mechanics and software with design, test and simulation of electrical and electronic systems. Mentor is generally viewed as a global leader in IC design, test and manufacturing; electronic systems design and analysis and automotive electronics. The deal will boost Siemens software revenue by about a third.

Samsung Electric to acquire Harman International

Samsung Electric has announced it will acquire Harman Int for $8B. Harman is best known for making car audio systems such as Harman/Kardon and JBL. Samsung’s interest is in Harmans “connected car” business which supplies navigation services, onboard entertainment systems and connectivity to the rest of the world.

Rumors from Asia

IFTLE hears that silicon interposers are still in short supply. Word is that Inotera has backed out of the business before they ever entered it. Recall ASE announced Inotera would be their supplier [see IFTLE 187 “…..ASE / Inotera 3DIC JV”]. So who will supply ASE now? Have they decided not to be a player in this market sector ?

If we look at who is really supplying, i.e. actually selling, silicon interposers (vs the lists put together by marketing companies that are pages long and include everyone who wants their names included) we are left with TSMC (per their CoWoS technology) and UMC who is supplying AMD. As Porkey Pig used to say in the cartoons I used to watch as a child “That’s All Folks!”

Porky Pig

Is there any wonder why 2.5D is struggling to take off with only these two suppliers in the infrastructure?

Congratulations to “Doug” Chen Hua Yu – TSMC

Doug YuRumor from Taiwan is that TSMC’s Douglas Yu was promoted to VP based on the success of InFO. Note that Doug was also responsible in a large part for the commercialization and success of CoWoS. As IFTLE has stated before, Doug, who earlier in his career was responsible for on chip interconnect scaling, was moved to packaging and has been a real driving force there.

Rumors persist that TSMC will license their InFO technology to 1-2 OSATs when their current fab is near sold out. IFTLE hears that Amkor is pursuing this licensing aggressively.

IMAPS 2016

The IMAPS 49th Int. Symp. on Microelectronics was held in Pasadena CA in October. For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at some of the key presentations from that conference.


Amkors Huemoeller certainly gave toe most relevant keynote “Creating Semiconductor Value through Advanced Packaging”. Nothing could be more in line with the theme of IFTLE for the past 6 years than the focus in the semiconductor industry shifting from the front end to packaging.

Huemoeller points to the fact that tier two OSATS simply do not have the scale or liquidity to invest what is needed to stay on the leading edge. He indicates that an investment of > $500MM / yr is required to just sustain current business.

**Remember the IFTLE credio “The leading edge is where you make the money” **

– investment in leading edge technologies creates scale and drives down costs.

He puts fort the following industry segments as driving packaging technology.

Amkor 1

And lists the following as the “Big 5” packaging platforms:

Amkor 2

– WLCSP is now showing > 30% penetration in high end smartphones.

We all know about the sensors in smartphones , but probably not the extent of sensors coming in automobiles:

amkor 3

Amkor 4SiP are basically today’s generation of what we used to call Multichip Modules in the 1990s. Amkor sees them requiring state of the art technology and driving heterogeneous integration with and without sensors.


Huemoeller sees the next gen of MCMs (or SiPs) being wafer based, since they will provide the best performance (power, electrical and thermal) and the thinnest form factor.

The following chart show how they see fan out packaging evolve into advanced SiP.

Amkor 5

For all the latest in Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 311 SEMICON Taiwan Part 5: Packaging at TSMC

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Continuing our look at advanced packaging activity at the 2016 Semicon Taiwan. This week we finish our overview of Semicon Taiwan 216 with an examination of presentations by TSMC who as we all know is making a major push into the high end packaging market.

TSMC – Packaging Solutions

Doug Yu discussed TSMC packaging solutions which are summarized below:


The history of TSMCs CoWoS interposer commercialization is shown below. CoWoS “key merits” include:

Sub-mm interconnect

  • DD Cu, 1000+ lines/mm
  • Small via, easy routing
  • Very low defect density

Super large size

  • 1200 mm2 in production. Going 1500 mm2
  • Highest level of multi-die integration


Multichip InFO vs multichip FC CSP are compared below:


TSMC – Interposers Past, Present and Future

Shang Hou of TSMC discussed interposers past, present and future.

Hou compared the TSMC CoWoS TSV based interposer technology to TSMC InFO fan out packaging in the slide below. The first gen CoWoS started in 2012 with 28nm logic chips. The industry’s first 16nm network processor was built with CoWoS® in (2014). CoWoS delivers faster time-to-market by eliminating the node-dependent CPI seen in conventional packages.

TSMC Hou 1

2nd Gen CoWoS

The industry’s first 20nm FPGA product was built on CoWoS in 2015

  • xtra large interposer ~1200 mm2
  • Composed by two-masks stitching of sub-micron RDL
  • Package with record-large chip size
  • Passed stringent component reliability tests

TSMC Hou 2

Volume is by far the No.1 factor in the cost equation

  • It has not yet find a niche in mobile applications
  • There is firm demand in the extremely high-end market (Cloud)

Interposer high intrinsic cost is unavoidable compared with flip chip. The key is whether it has sufficient value to justify the cost?

For all the latest on Advanced Packaging stay linked to IFTLE…



IFTLE 310 SEMICON Taiwan Part 4: TSV Based Packaging – SPIL, Amkor, EVG

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Continuing our look at advanced packaging activity at the 2016 SEMICON Taiwan. This week let’s look at some presentations that focused on TSV based packaging.

SPIL – TSV in IC Packaging

Mike MA of SPIL reviewed the status of TSV in IC Packaging. His summary of current TSV usage is shown below:

  1. TSV in CIS – Sony
  2. TSV in MEMS/Sensor
  3. 3D IC with TSV – only in High Band Width (HBM) DRAM

-Hynix, Samsung start HBM-1 LVM in 2015

-HBM-2 in 2016

– Advantage proven, cost still high

  1. 2.5D IC with TSV Si Interposer

– 2010 Xilinx debuted 1st product group (FPGA)

– 2015: AMD rolled out 2nd product group (GPU+HBM)

– 2016 nVidia GP100 with HBM-2

– Renewed interest for high end networking, VR/AR

SPIL currently doing 40um pitch on their ubumps as shown below.


SPIL is a proponent of the so called “chip on wafer last” process flow as shown below:



Other interesting comments by Ma include:

“The glass interposer has come and gone due to a lack of ecosystem”

“Fine line organic interposers keep delaying delivery of 5um L/S with still unknown costs. PCB insustry needs to invest in sub 5um L/S”

“Fan out packaging is capable of 2um L/S x 2 layers, but larger package size (> 15 x 15mm sq) will be challenging”

Amkor – Large Die Assembly with TSV Packaging

JY Khim discussed large die assembly technology in TSV packages. He notes the following points about their multi-die platforms:

CoS Process Flow

  • No molding                 • Interim test available
  • Mold sensitive components OK   • Shared infrastructure with FCBGA

Initial interposer warpage affects the PCB + interposer warpage. For the successful top die attach warpage minimization of interpose is important. Tuning the Inorganic C4-side passivation layer can reduce interposer warpage.

Amor Khim 1


He compares the CoS to the CoW process below:

Amkor Khim 2

In the CoW Process, there are no warpage risks in top die attach on interposer regardless of die size.

Khim showed the following table containing Amkor 2.5D CoW experience.

Amkor Khim 3

EVG – Chip Stacking in High Volume

For those looking for a good comparison of Samsung vs Hynix stacked memory cross sections, Wimplinger of EVG offered us the following figure and table comparing the two.


For all the latest in Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 309 SEMICON Taiwan Part 3 : Fan-Out Technologies; Amkor, K&S & Yamada

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Continuing our look at advanced packaging activity at the 2016 SEMICON Taiwan. This week, let’s look at some interesting presentations on fan-out packaging.

Amkor – Fan Out Solutions for Today and Tomorrow

Ron Huemoeller of Amkor addressed the status and future of fan out solutions. Amkor expects 2B fan out packages to be shipped this year.

Traditional WLFO applications and drivers are shown below.

Amkor 1

Huemoeller reports that advanced Fan Out offers the following value proposition:

– reduced Z height and form factor           – enhanced signal integrity

– superior impedance matching                 – optimized power distribution

– improved thermal performance/junction temp

– ability to address multi die heterogeneous integration (i.e. SiP)

Traditional fan-out is reportedly gaining momentum in mobile market, i.e. RFIC, CODEC and PMIC

The table below shows their assessment of Amkor Advanced fan-out (SWIFT) vs FC CSP solutions.

Amkor 2


They see advanced FO (i.e SWIFT and TSMC’s InFO) being used in mobile applications such as

– Apps processor               – Baseband (logic + memory)

– power management     – display driver SiPs

Right now they claim that traditional fan out has cost parity with FC CSP at 0.5mm die size.

K&S – Equipment Selection for Fan-Out Process Flows

Strothmann of K&S detailed considerations to make when determining equipment for fan-out process flows.

  • Past and current FOWLP is typically the Infineon eWLB variety but also can be Motorola RCP or Deca versions.

– Lower I/O count devices

– Mostly single die, some multi-die and a few die with passives

– applications include Baseband, Power Management, RF, Analog, Bluetooth

  • High Density FOWLP is expanding rapidly

– Competing technologies in an unsettled market space

– High density I/O capable

– Application Processors, Memory, Multi-die Si Partitioning, Heterogeneous Integration

  • Wafer vs Panel formats are also being examined

Strothmann notes the following FOWLP process flows in HVM today:

  • Face Down, Die First: Typical Infineon licensed eWLB process, highest volume
  • Face Up, Die First: Similar to flow used by TSMC and others, HVM potential
  • Face Down, Die Last: Similar to Amkor’s SWIFT or SLIM process
  • Accuracy and UPH are Key Metrics for equipment selection in all flows

K&S 1

  • Face down typically has the highest position shift but also has the highest UPH (lowest cost)
  • Face up die placement accuracy can be improved with application of heat and force to lock die position
  • RDL first allows for high accuracy due to metallurgy and die position being locked prior to reconstitution

FOWLP manufacturing today is primarily driven by a round 300mm format.

Panel format requires new processes and equipment to be developed

– Panel size has not been set as an industry standard

– Maximum panel size appears to be 650x650mm but many potential smaller sizes

– Difficult for equipment suppliers to prepare

– Immediate TAM is quite low due to die volume per panel

  • Panel lines require significant loading for full utilization
  • Larger package size is required to drive panel volume (SiP, IoT?)
  • Adoption of mainstream panel processing remains a few years out

Strothmann suggests the following equipment selection criteria by process flow:

K&S 2

Yamada – Wafer Molding for Fan-out Packages

Katsuyama-san of Yamada discussed wafer molding systems for fan-out packaging. Yamada has been around since 1953 working on standard lead frame packaging.

Yamada 1

Their fan-out assembly process flow giving 5 sided protection is shown below. This is achieved by cutting grooves into the wafer isolating the components and backfilling them with molding compound as shown below:

Yamada 2

For all the latest in Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 308 SEMICON Taiwan Part 2: Laser Processing for WLP; IoT in the Post-Smart Phone Era

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Continuing our look at Advanced Packaging in SEMICON Taiwan 2016.

AMKOR – Lasers for the Manufacture of WLCSP

WL Huang of Amkor examined the use of lasers in the manufacture of WLCSP (fan-in WLP). As we all know by now Huang pointed to size, weight, cost and performance as the drivers for WLCSP.

In the following chart, Huang shows that the same 7.6 x 7.6mm chip with 28 I/O saves a lot of real estate when packaged in a WLCSP and that the bulk of such fan in WLP are projected to be for analog and mixed signal devices.

amkor 1

The main applications for laser in WLP are:

Laser marking

  • Scribe product info on die backside for traceability

–Laser dicing

  • Separate product from wafer form to die form

–Advanced process node low-k wafer (90 nm and below). Delamination can be easy observed by blade saw due to low-k material being more brittle

–Saw street design issues – reduce topside chipping and peeling

–Saw street width shrink – By shrinking saw street width, gross die per wafer would be increased which can reduce unit cost, ex. RF switch, LNA products

amkor 2

Two kinds of laser cut can support saw street width down to 20 μm: Stealth dicing (SD) and full laser cut.

The stealth dicing process is shown below:

amkor 3

The key to full laser cutting is minimizing the HAZ (heat affected zone).

Amkor 4

ITRI – Emerging Trends & Apps for IoT

Ray Yang of ITRI examined the “Emerging Trends and Applications of IoT in the Post Smart Phone Era”. This presentation started with two interesting slides depicting Taiwan’s electronics revenue.

2014 Semi industry ranked first in value-added among Taiwan’s manufacturing sectors. The foundry business contributes the most to the Taiwan IC industry as shown in the breakout below.


Taiwan IC packaging and test accounts for more than half of worldwide assembly and test revenues.


When examining the future of autonomous vehicles he broke out the requirements into the 3 functions: sensing, understanding and action as shown below.


For all the latest in Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 307 Micross Acquires RTI Int Fab & Personnel ; Teledyne Heterogeneous Integration with Ziptronix DBI; Semicon Taiwan part 1: Market Trends

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Micross Components Acquires RTI Int. Fab and Packaging Group

Micross Components of Orlando, FLA announced the acquisition of RTI International’s Microsystem Integration and Packaging group and fab in Research Triangle Park, NC. Some of you may recall this RTI site as The Microelectronics Center of NC (MCNC) in the late 19080s through early 2000’s.

Micross is a provider of bare die and wafers, custom packaging and assembly, component modification services, electrical and environmental testing to manufacturers and users of semiconductor devices. The 35 year old company serves the Defense, Space, Medical, Industrial, and Fabless Semiconductor markets.

This acquisition brings the RTI wafer bumping, 2.5D/3D packaging and interconnects technologies to the hi-reliability electronics platform of Micross. Micross plan is to expand its capabilities to serve customers in the defense and medical electronics sectors with these newly acquired advanced packaging technologies.

The Micross “Advanced Interconnect Technology” ( AIT )” team will be led by VP Dr. John Lannon , Director of Operations Rex Anderson and Director of Engineering Alan Huffman.

The financial details of the acquisition were not revealed.

Teledyne Details Heterogeneous Integration using Ziptronix DBI

In IFTLE 303, we indicated that Sony was using the Ziptronix DBI process in their image sensors for the Samsung Galaxy S7 [link]

We have recently discovered that Teledyne, under the DARPA DAHI program, has demonstrated 3D integration of high- performance compound semiconductor devices and Si CMOS using similar technology. Teledyne’s Miguel Urteaga indicates that “… Adding the complexity and integration density of CMOS to Teledyne’s ultra-high speed Indium Phosphide bipolar transistor process enables new classes of mm-wave and sub-mm-wave electronics for future DoD and commercial applications” A cross-section is shown below.



Over the next few weeks we will review some of the highlights of the recent Semicon Taiwan Conference. This week we will look at the “market trends” forum moderated by Elizabeth Sun of TSMC.

Handel Jones – Int Business Strategies 

IBS projects the Semiconductor market to decline in 2016. He market broken out by product type is shown below:



IBS projects that 3D NAND flash will overtake 2D NAND Flash in 2018. 64 layers should be in volume production in 2017. Samsung appears 12-18 mo ahead of its competition.



Wafer fab activity in China shows a strong emphasis on memory as shown below. However Chinese DRAM vendors are not expected to have a large impact on supply before 2020.


Dan Tracy – SEMI Equipment & Materials Outlook

Of the 21 fabs beginning construction, 11 will be in China.


200mm capacity is expanding with 8% growth expected between 2015 and 2019.

The wafer materials forecast is shown below:


The packaging materials forecast is shown below. “Other” includes solder balls and WLP dielectrics.


A key factor here is that laminate based substrates will begin to feel the pressure of FOWLP packaging as they take market share.  

For all the latest in Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 306 Qualcomm Acquisition of NXP?; HBM IP at Open Silicon; IEEE 3DIC Program

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Qualcomm Negotiating to Acquire NXP

Long time readers know that IFTLE has been following the consolidation in our industry for more than 8 years now based on the basic laws of economics telling us this was going to happen. [see IFTLE 241 “Simply Obeying the Laws of Economics”]

Reports from multiple financial sources indicate that NXP Semiconductors has hired an investment bank to help them deal with recent acquisition offers. Qualcomm is viewed as the likely acquirer. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) the deal would be worth over $30B. [link]

Qualcomm and NXP both supply Apple. Qualcomm apparently has its eye on NXP’s position in the automotive supplier business based on its Freescale takeover in 2015. The automotive chip business will reportedly show above average future growth.



Bloomberg reports that others who could possibly jump in with bids includes Broadcom, Intel and Samsung [link].

According to the WSJ, the deal would reshape Qualcomm. While Qualcomm currently derives most of its revenue from designing and selling chips, the company earns more than half of its profits from licensing its wireless patents to nearly all makers of mobile phones.

HBM IP at Open Silicon

TSMC’s Open Innovation Platform (OIP) Forum was held Sept. 22nd at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

A recent discussion on Semiwiki [link] by Tom Simon indicated that Open Silicon discussed their IP for HBM memory stacks on 2.5D interposers at the meeting.

This topic is discussed in detail on the Open Silicon web page [link].

Open-Silicon’s subsystem IP solution comprises the HBM Controller, PHY and 2.5D interposer IO addressing interoperability and 2.5D design, test and SiP packaging challenges. The HBM IP claims to be suitable for graphics, high-performance computing, high-end networking and communication applications that require low power and small form factor.

Open SI 1

Open-Silicon claims their HBM IP is the industry’s first solution for integrating HBM into ASICs for high performance and low power. By integrating the HBM protocol controller, PHY and IO into one sub-system IP product, interoperability aspects between the different system components are addressed. The Open-Silicon HBM IP fully complies with the HBM-Gen2 (2 Gbps per signal) JEDEC standard.

Back to the OIP presentation, Simon reports that Open-Silicon has implemented an HBM reference design in 16nm. According to Open Silicon 16 nm FinFET is the key to unlocking the full benefits of HBM since it can potentially reduce power and boost performance by 50% relative to 28 nm.

In the current design Open Silicon replaced (24) DDR3 1600 with 1 HBM stack, the power consumption went from 1.0 mW /Gbit to 0.33 mW. The data rate climbed from 4 GB/s up to 256 GB/s.

OpenSi 2

To effectively shield the 0.85 um signal lines from cross talk, ground wires of 0.5um were placed 2.1um to the side of each signal wire. This left 2.1 um for each signal line.

IEEE 3DIC Conference


ieee 3dic


The IEEE 3DIC conference, which I helped put together several years ago, is back in SF this year and will be held Nov 9 – 11th. [link]

Topics will include:

– 3DIC Processing                            – Design and Applications

– Thermal Analysis                           – Bonding

– Reliability and Stress                  – Power & Signal Integrity


Next week we will start our coverage of SEMICON Taiwan packaging activities. For all the latest in Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 305 Where is Samsung Widecon?? ; TSMC InFO found in iPhone 7

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Samsung Widecon Technology

Samsung introduced us to their Widecon technology in 2014 [link] and it was predicted that this 3D TSV technology linking memory to processor would be introduced in the Exnos 6 generation.



Dick James (Chipworks) recent assessment of the tear own of the Galaxy note 7 [link] tells us that

the application processor that drives this phone is the Exynos 8 Octa (Exynos 8890), similar to the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. It has an eight-core CPU, with four Samsung designed cores that can run at 2.3 GHz, and four ARM Cortex A53 cores operating at up to 1.6 GHz. Stacked on top of the CPU in the usual package-on-package (PoP) stack, is 4 GB of Samsung LPDDR4 SDRAM. Now that we have 20 nm DRAM processes, the dies are small enough that they are packaged in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration. The four stacks of two 4-Gb memory dies are mirror-imaged, on both the vertical and horizontal axes.

exnos 8

So – it looks like we are still going to have to wait for the commercial introduction of widecon.

TSMC InFO becomes commercial reality

For several years ow, rumors have been rampant that TSMC scaling of their InFO packaging technology was focused on acessing the highly lucrative Apple iPhone market. For instance see IFTLE 283 “Will Packaging make the Difference for TSMC?”


While a definitive process flow for InFO has not been publically described by TSMC, in IFTLE 261 we reported on a rumored InFO process flow which consists of (1) copper pillar plating on the die, (2) die placed face up on tape, (3)molding to generate reconstituted wafer, (4) polish down to reveal tops of pillars, (5) RDL processing on this polished surface. The capability for finer features than standard fan out packaging reportedly comes from the more planar starting surfaces and better control of the photo processes.

We have also pointed out rumors that ASE would second source an InFO process [see IFTLE 292]

Now a Chipworks teardown confirms the presence of the A10 Fusion chip, manufactured by TSMC with a reported 3.3 billion transistors, in the iPhone 7 link]. Chipworks confirms that the process is a TSMC 16nm finfet based.

Apple A10

“The A10 sits below the Samsung K3RG1G10CM 2-GB LPDDR4 memory. This is similar to the low power mobile DRAM as the one we found in the iPhone 6s. Looking at the X-rays we see the four dies are not stacked, but are spread out across the package. This arrangement keeps the overall package height to a minimum. Assembled in a package-on-package assembly with the A10 InFO packaging technique reduces the total height of PoP significantly”

So the InFO rumors were in fact correct and this in turn will fuel the drive towards HVM of fan out packaging.

ASE Providing SiP for Apple

We had previously noted that ASE was the sole supplier for Apple’s custom-designed SiP modules for used in the Apple Watch. [See IFTLE 238 “ASE & the Apple watch, …”]

Digitimes now reports that ASE, through its Shanghai-based subsidiary Universal Scientific Industrial (USI), has obtained SiP orders for Wi-Fi, fingerprint sensor and force touch modules used in the recently-released iPhone 7 [link].

ASE holds a nearly 80% stake in USI, which has been engaged in backend services for SiP modules.

For all the latest information on Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…


IFTLE 304 Renesas Acquires Intersil; Intel’s Knights Landing: An Update

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

Renesas Acquires Intersil

Consolidation continues with the latest deal announcement of Renesas buying Intersil for $3.2B beating out Maxim who was known to be seeking a similar deal [link]. Renesas reportedly aims to complete the deal by June 2017. The acquisition will need to win approval from the US Committee on Foreign Investment, which scrutinizes deals for potential national security issues.

Renesas was created in 2003 from the chip-making units of NEC, Mitsubishi Electric and Hitachi . It is the world’s largest auto semiconductor maker in 2014,[ one of the world’s largest makers of semiconductor systems for mobile phones, the world’s largest maker of microcontrollers 9 controls nearly 40 percent of the global market for microcontroller chips used in automobiles), and the second largest maker of application processors. Its automotive and industrial businesses accounted for 70% of its revenue in 2015. The combination with Intersil is expected to result in better products for in-vehicle entertainment, battery management and safety systems [link].

Intersil, headquartered in Milpitis CA, formed in 1999 when Harris Corp spun off its semiconductor business. In 2014 it had ~1000 employees and revenue of $562MM. It is known for power management ICs and precision analog technology for applications in industrial, infrastructure, mobile, automotive and aerospace. The company supplies power IC solutions including battery management, computing power, display power, regulators a d controllers and power modules; as well as precision analog components such as amplifiers and buffers, proximity and light sensors, data converters, timing products, optoelectronics and interface products. They are a major supplier to the military and aerospace industries

Intel Knights Landing

We first discussed Intel’s Knights Landing in IFTLE 198 [link].

The Knights Landing (KNL) chip is the first commercial processor with very high bandwidth MCDRAM memory (Intel’s name for Microns HMC memory cubes) right next to the CPU in the same package, and the first integrated high speed main memory on any class of Xeon processor. Intel is now apparently able to ship Knights Landing processors in volume with the announcement that they will be shipping several variants of the Knights Landing X86 processor starting September 2016.

Intel disclosed he memory hierarchy of Knights Landing last year, explaining how the mix of local MCDRAM on the Knights Landing package and DDR4 memory that is on the motherboard (but controlled from on-chip memory controllers) like regular servers can be used in different ways, depending on the workload.

Intel 2

The performance jump from the Knights Corner coprocessors to the Knights Landing processors ranges from somewhere between 2.6X and 2.9X with the price only rising by 1.4X to 1.5X.

Intel expects to ship more than 100,000 Xeon Phi units this year into the HPC market. More than 30 system makers are reportedly going to use these Knights Landing processors [link].

Intel is clearly taking as little more time to ramp up the yields on the 14 nanometer processes used to etch the latest Xeon Phi chips, and given that at more than 8 billion transistors per die, it is also the largest chip that Intel has ever made.

intel 1

300mm KNL Wafer

Hynix Building up CMOS Image Sensor Capability

Our discussions in IFTLE 303 on the status of CMOS Image sensor technology had little to say about SK Hynix.

Recent reports from Korea indicate that SK Hynix is going to mass-produce their 13 MM pixel CIS at their 300mm factory M10 in Icheon Korea, in 2017. Because of the size of this CIS, it is believed that SK Hynix could not manufacture at a profit at 200mm. [link]

In October of 2007 Hynix entered the CIS business. In 2008 Hynix acquired Siliconfile, a CIS fabless manufacturing company. Until now, SK Hynix had been supplying CIS with < 5MM pixels.To increase profitability, it has been attempting to increase the percentage of 8MM pixel products to Samsung, Huawei, LG, and other Smartphone manufacturers for their low and medium priced Smartphones.

According to TSR (Techno Systems Res) total sales from global CIS markets in 2015 were about $9.2B. SK Hynix market share of 3.7% stands 6th behind Sony (44.8%), Samsung Electronics (16.5%), OmniVision (13.2%) ON Semi (Aptina Imaging, 6.1%) and Canon (5.3%).

Reader Input on Lester the Lightbulb ( i.e. the Govt. forcing Incandescent technology out of the market )


After reading IFTLE 300 a reader sent in the following picture he took at a Chinese restaurant in Portland Maine.

The lighting fixture over one of the tables seemed rather dim and on further investigation he found two burned out compact florescents (CFL) and an incandescent burning brightly. Certainly, we do not know when any of the bulbs were inserted into the fixture, but after reading IFTLE 300 the reader said this made him laugh out loud or as the younger folks say LOL.

For all the latest on Advanced Packaging, stay linked to IFTLE…

IFTLE 303 Sony Introduces Ziptronix DBI Technology in Samsung Galaxy S7

By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor

It has been awhile since we last checked in on the CMOS Image sensor (CIS) community to see what the latest advances in packaging were [see IFLE 172 [link], 244 [link], 272 [link] and 278 [link].

For those that need to catch up on the technology roadmap, Toshiba was the first to commercially implement CMOS image sensors with backside TSV last technologies in 2007 ( this was covered thoroughly by my predecessor blog PFTLE which was unfortunately scrubbed from the internet when “Semiconductor International “ went out of business. This technology is well explained by CEA Leti [link].

Many of us stated in 2007 that further advances could be obtained by removing the CMOS circuitry to a separate layer and forming a true 3D chip stack, but the technology implementation had to wait while the industry first converted to back side imaging technology.

“Backside Imaging” – BSI

With a conventional front-illumination structure, the metal wiring above the sensor’s photo-diodes impede photon gathering. A back-illuminated structure (figure below) increases the amount of light that enters each pixel due to the lack of obstacles such as metal wiring and transistors that have been moved to the reverse of the silicon substrate [link].

Back side illumination


Back Side Imaging – stacked

The next generation, as expected, combined both BSI and stacking. Conventional CMOS image sensor technology creates the pixel function and analog logic circuitry on the same chip. The motivations for stacked chip CIS include: optimization of each function in the stack, adding functionality to the stack and decreasing form factor.

Since the pixel section and circuit section are formed as independent chips, each function can be separately optimized, enabling the pixel section to deliver higher image quality while the circuit section can be specialized for higher functionality. In addition, faster signal processing and lower power consumption can also be achieved through the use of leading process for the chip containing the circuits.[link]



So, where do things stand commercially?

The 2014 image sensor market was estimated by Techno Systems Research as shown below.




Sony is clearly leading in commercializing the latest CIS packaging technologies.

In 2012 Sony announced the Exmor RS, Stacked CMOS back-side illuminated sensor, where the supporting circuitry is moved below the active pixel section, giving ~ 30% improvement to light capturing capability [link 1] [link 2].

The first generation Sony BSI-Stacked chips employed via-last TSVs to connect pads from the Sony-fabricated, 90 nm generation CIS die to landing pads on a Sony-fabricated, 65 nm generation ISP. The die stack was partitioned such that most of the functionality of a conventional system-on-chip (SoC) CIS was implemented on the ISP die; the CIS die retained the active pixel array, final stage of the row drivers, and comparator portion of the column-parallel ADCs

Some of the biggest names in tech use Sony sensors: The iPhone 6 camera has a Sony sensor, as does the Samsung Galaxy S6, Motorola phones, Nikon DSLRs, and Olympus mirrorless cameras. [link]

Earlier in 2016 it was reported that there are two versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7. One has a Samsung stacked ISOCELL sensor (S5K2L1) and the other a special Sony stacked sensor (IMX260) [link].

The recent Chipworks teardown of the Samsung Galaxy S7 with a Sony IMX 260 revealed BSI stacked technology [link 1]. Furthermore it revealed the first reported use of the Ziptronix (now Tessera) Direct Bond interconnect (DBI) technology rather than prior oxide –oxide bonding with subsequent TSVs connecting through the oxide interface [link 2]. This BSI-stacked DBI technology is possibly the next step in the CIS roadmap.

The Chipworks cross-section (see below) reveals a 5 metal (Cu) CMOS image sensor (CIS) die and a 7 metal (6 Cu + 1 Al) image signal processor (ISP) die.  The Cu-Cu vias are 3.0 µm wide and have a 14 µm pitch in the peripheral regions.  In the active pixel array they are also 3.0 µm wide, but have a pitch of 6.0 µm. Note that in the images we’ve included we do see connections from the Cu-Cu via pads to both CIS and ISP landing pads.

Sony DBI



Omnivision was the first to sample BSI in 2007 but costs were too high and adoption was thus very low.

In 2015 Omnivision announced their OV 16880 a 16-megapixel image sensor built on OmniVision’s PureCel-S™ stacked die technology [link].


Samsung’s first entrant into stacked technology with TSV was also at 16MP with the Samsung S5K3P3SX in late 2014. The CIS die is face-to-face bonded to a 65nm Samsung image signal processor die and connected with W based TSV. The CIS die is fabricated on a 65nm CMOS process with 5 levels of interconnect as shown below, courtesy Chipworks.


ON Semi (Aptina)

In early 2015 On Semiconductor (Aptina) introduced its first stacked CMOS sensor the AR 1335 with 1.1µm pixels. It resulted in a smaller die footprint, higher pixel performance and better power consumption compared to their traditional monolithic non-stacked designs. They announced that it would be introduced in commercial products in late 2015. [link]


In late 215 Olympus announced the OL 20150702-1 a new 3D stacked 16MP CMOS image sensor [link]

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