SECAP spreads the word with APiA launch


SECAP, the Semiconductor Equipment Consortium for Advanced Packaging, is in its second year now with some interesting projects underway. The creation of a second such organization, the Advanced Packaging and Interconnect Alliance (APiA), is an indication of the interest in accelerating the development of advanced packaging technology.

SECAP has undergone some changes in the last year, with, most notably, Unaxis departing to join APiA. Unaxis resigned because joining APiA would create a strategic alignment between Unaxis and a packaging technology provider, and the SECAP charter states that the consortium is neutral regarding the technology of any provider of advanced packaging technologies. APiA's members include such companies.

Joining SECAP recently, though, were Matrix Integrated Systems, a supplier of plasma-based processing equipment, and Electroglas, a provider of wafer probers, inspection systems and software for data collection, management and analysis.

The breadth of interest in SECAP's work was demonstrated recently at a series of tutorials in Asia, with stops in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore. There were presentations from the current SECAP members (Semitool, SUSS MicroTec, Matrix, Image Technology, Fraunhofer IZM and Electroglas), as well as many other companies active in wafer-level packaging (WLP). These included IBM Japan, Casio Micronics, Kulicke & Soffa's Flip Chip Division, Unaxis, Shin-Etsu, JSR, and HD MicroSystems. Among the groups organizing the events were KAIST (Korea), ERSO/ITRI (Taiwan), NECTEC (Thailand), Gintic (Singapore) and Tsinghua University (China).

SECAP has done these tutorial series before, but the latest one included new work from Matrix on plasma cleaning with microwave and reactive ion etching (RIE) processes. Electroglas also discussed automated bump inspection and defect classification. The next major update from SECAP will come at SEMICON Europa in April.

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There are three distinct types of users of the WLP technology being developed by SECAP and others, according to Jim Quinn, CEO of SECAP member Image Technology. Quinn told Advanced Packaging that the three categories - wafer fabs of integrated device manufacturers (IDMs), wafer foundries, and wafer bumping houses - each bring a different approach to WLP. For example, the IDM wafer fabs have been most interested in the SECAP equipment that is set up for back-end automation. With less of a product mix than a foundry, an IDM can perhaps benefit more from the latest automation technology.

Quinn also said that it is hard to predict how the wafer bumping arena will unfold among the three types of users of WLP technology. There is a lot of "jockeying" going on, according to Quinn, as companies figure out what technologies and business models make the most sense for them. There has certainly been significant activity in licensing, acquisitions and partnering among the players.

There are three current areas of focus for SECAP's work: lead-free processes, thick film resists and vertical integration or chip stacking. Chip stacking has only recently been added to SECAP's current plate, but there has certainly been plenty of progress and interest in this during the last year. SECAP was quick to jump into this, because, as Image's Quinn said, "If it's wafer-level packaging, it's in the SECAP space." Because of this new focus, the substrate bonding equipment from SUSS MicroTec is now part of SECAP's activities. The equipment, which bonds bumped wafers together, is finding uses beyond its initial MEMS applications.

To work on the current projects, SECAP is in discussions with potential new members, but they take a cautious approach to this according to Quinn. A very large consortium can become unwieldy, and SECAP wants to make sure that any new members are aware of the significant commitment and have the right culture to be a productive part of such an organization. It sounds like we can expect some announcements in the near future.

As for the new consortium on the block, SECAP remains optimistic that the work of the two groups can proceed in parallel. While the departure of Unaxis from SECAP to join APiA suggests a rivalry, Quinn said that SECAP still has a good relationship with Unaxis. The public statements from both SECAP and APiA indicate that there is plenty of room in the quickly growing advanced packaging technology field for two or even more such organizations.

SECAP's Quinn also said that it is really too early to tell how the technical approach of the two organizations stack up - more details of APiA's work are needed - but he thought that it was even possible for the two organizations to work together. They are both interested in promoting standards in the field, so this is an area where they would need to work together eventually for either of them to be successful.

Like SECAP, APiA is also planning regular public presentations with updates on their work, and it will be interesting to compare the content and focus as both groups progress.

A key technology area to watch will be the lithography approach of the two organizations. APiA's Ultratech promotes its 1X steppers, while SECAP's SUSS MicroTec uses full-field patterning. SECAP presented work in Asia showing that a stepper would increase the cost because of throughput issues, although APiA could have data showing otherwise. Perhaps the users will need to sort it out themselves for a specific application.