What's up with Flip Chips?


On June 21 in Austin, Texas, I moderated a panel for the Global Business Council (GBC) of IMAPS covering the global flip chip business overview. I had lots of questions about flip chips already, such as: When will we see standardization in flip chip processes? Will most flip chip packaging eventually be absorbed by the semicon houses as a normal backend function? What are the long shots in flip chips that could bring about major changes? When will the flip chip industry mature? Will flip chip packaging migrate to China? As compared to wire bonding, what is the percent of flip chip penetration in today's market and what will it be in the next 10 years? GBC speakers answered some of my questions, but they had other insights that were equally important.

Trevor Yancey, vice president of IC Insights, gave the semiconductor market's mid-year forecast. For starters, he stated that in 2004 there's a healthy worldwide economy at 4.5 percent growth, and a strong electronics system sales at 13 percent growth. Yancey said, "IC Insights forecasts that semiconductor industry capital spending will increase 53 percent in 2004, with most of this investment targeting 300-mm wafer production." Economic and business cycles suggest that in 2005 to 2006 the economic cycle will turn down. "We no longer assume that electronic system production will grow every year," he added. (But since the deep decline in 2002, we knew that.) Though the industry overall is mature, flip chip production is not and will continue to grow faster than the industry overall.

E. Jan Vardaman, president of TechSearch International Inc., presented the global flip chip business overview. Vardaman said that the drivers for flip chip continue to be performance and pad-limited designs. High-performance logic suppliers (ASICs, FPGA) and microprocessor producers are expanding their use of flip-chip-in-package (FCIP). High-end DSP, graphics ICs, and chip set makers are increasing their use of flip chips. Flip-chip-on-board (FCOB) is increasingly used in automotive applications, disk drives and in watch modules. Right now 75 percent of new ASIC designs are in flip chip format, and that's increasing.

Bob Forcier gave viewpoints on why his firm acquired all of the assets of Flip Chip Technologies, LLC from Kulicke and Soffa Industries to start up the new Phoenix-based FlipChip International. K&S sold this advanced semiconductor bumping facility. Forcier, president of the new company, plans to offer flip chip services and products, expand R&D, and add advanced materials including specialty solders, nanomaterials and dielectrics. Forcier feels that flip chip techniques continue to gain market share in many growing areas including cell phones, PDAs, medical diagnostics and therapeutics, homeland security and defense products because of the substantial reduction in form factor, increases in performance and reduction in cost.

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Apparently everything is up with flip chips.

Gail Flower