Collaborative Design is Not a Four-letter Word
BY ALAN STRASSMAN
How many times has an advanced technology/engineering marvel been implemented into a new or existing product, only to be thrown over the fence to the manufacturing group? They are then tasked to acquire equipment capable of producing a sufficient number of units at a high enough yield to satisfy production quotas. This traditional scenario might not present a problem if it requires a previously existing manufacturing process with proven equipment and processing techniques. Frequently, however, this is not the case. The new technology often requires new process equipment and a high level of expertise about the equipment and the processes involved.
While concurrent design and collaborative design within companies may be all the rage, the same efforts that drive inter-company initiatives must be extended beyond the confines of the company to equipment suppliers to fully exploit the many beneficial aspects of these programs.
The traditional scenario is that a new technology is initiated by the organization's chief technology officer. He or she must make certain assumptions based on anticipated manufacturability to substantiate their proposal to management for project development funding. The balance of the engineering cycle takes place, and the process ends up in the hands of manufacturing, with everyone anxiously awaiting the production units and the profitability that they will bring.
Unfortunately, it is at this stage that various manufacturing issues are uncovered — requiring higher-cost, specialized process equipment, and resulting in lower throughputs and yields. This translates into a higher-cost product and lower profitability or, even worse, a completely scrapped development program. To avoid this unfortunate and often unnecessary predicament, collaboration between chip and package designers and the back-end packaging equipment manufacturers from the beginning of the project can dramatically affect the outcome. It will invoke the "KISS" or "Keep It Simple, Stupid" principle that, while being a cornerstone of many engineering and manufacturing processes, is sometimes lost when coordination is not maintained between these two groups.
Successful collaboration goes far beyond a nondisclosure agreement, and involves a deep level of trust between the customer and equipment supplier. At times this may be difficult to achieve on the customers' end, because of the proprietary nature of the product, a critically short time to market and a natural reluctance to divulge corporate production data. However, device manufacturers must understand that it is the collaboration and sharing of this type of information that can make the difference between a successful project that meets its pre-determined goals, and a redevelopment effort possibly doomed to failure.
How can this barrier be broken down and successful collaboration initiated? Back-end equipment suppliers must break down these barriers and gain this trust by demonstrating their technical expertise on the technology or process in question. They also must show a willingness to share in the process development of the product and willingly demonstrate this process on their own equipment in the form of prototype and pre-production runs. The involvement of the equipment manufacturer's application team during the concept stage will bring out design issues that allow the use of standard packaging equipment and tooling, thereby minimizing lead time to production and improving time-to-market. The simple concept of laying out the bump pattern on a flip chip and allowing adequate surface area to facilitate high-speed pick up may equate to potentially thousands of additional chips per hour, again affecting the ultimate cost per placement of the device and its ensuing profitability.
Information transfer between device manufacturers and equipment suppliers was traditionally doled out on an as-needed basis and followed the traditional design scenario. Switching to a wholly collaborative design process provides innumerable benefits for all parties involved. For customer's designing and manufacturing a product, it provides a means of acquiring specialized, process-specific information without incurring the cost of hiring a production expert or consultant. This, in turn, allows their product to be manufactured in the most efficient way possible — providing the highest possible yield, the lowest possible packaging cost and the highest profitability possible.
For the equipment supplier, after providing what often turns out to be many hours of support and resources to their potential customers' process development effort, a well thought-out and properly collaborated project will provide the payout they are seeking in the form of a machine purchase and a successful, satisfied customer.
ALAN STRASSMAN, Advanced Packaging Engineering manager, may be contacted at Tyco Electronics Automation Group, 2405 Maryland Rd., Willow Grove, PA 19090; (215) 784-4584; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.