In the News


New RFIC Design Center Locates in Georgia

ATLANTA, GA. - Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co. Ltd., a South Korea-based company, is establishing a design center in Atlanta, Georgia to develop next-generation radio-frequency IC technology. The new center’s initial focus will be on high-speed RFIC technologies and expertise, including providing leadership to industry-critical activities that are setting worldwide standards for next-generation products.

Chang-Ho Lee has been named director of the new design center. He was formerly with Georgia Tech’s Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC).

The opportunity to collaborate with Georgia Tech researchers and support from the GEDC are the primary reasons Samsung cites for choosing Atlanta as the location for the new design center.

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“The opening of this RFIC Design Center is just the starting point with Georgia Tech and the state of Georgia, and it will expand our ability to play an even greater role in bringing high-function, high-quality, and low-cost products to the world marketplace,” says Byeongcheon Koh, chief technical officer of Samsung. “Locating in Atlanta and partnering with Georgia Tech assures us of access to both the best faculty and student researchers. We have been most impressed with the support being offered by the state of Georgia and the welcome we are receiving here at Georgia Tech.”

The new design center initially will be located at GEDEC, in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square campus in downtown Atlanta. As it expands over the next few years, Samsung plans to extend its cooperation with Georgia Tech and Atlanta to include packaging technology. - SCJ

Non-volatile Memory Markets to Beat $69B by 2010

NORWALK, CONN. - Chip sizes are shrinking and memory content is increasing, resulting in extensive research in the non-volatile memory (NVM) arena, which is solid-state memory that does not require memory contents to be periodically refreshed. This includes ROM, EPROM, EEPROM, and flash memory, as well as future technologies such as MRAM, FRAM, and OUM.

The global non-volatile memory market is currently estimated at $17.3 billion, and is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 31.8%, meaning that this market may hit $69 billion by 2010. Its share in the total memory market is expected to rise from a current 33% share to a 45% share in 2010, according to a report, RGB-316 Non-volatile Memory Markets, from Business Communications Co. Inc. (

NVM is a small part of the semiconductor industry, which represented around 8% of total semiconductor industry revenues in 2004, when the industry experienced a sudden downturn in the second half of the year. This had a negative impact on the NVM market as well, which showed a downward trend in the second half of 2004, but did not affect the overall NVM market.

Among existing NVM technologies, the flash market has grown rapidly and currently comprises almost 90% of the total NVM market. It is expected to grow at an AAGR of 12.6% over 2005 through 2010, due to increasing demand for cellular phones, including smart phones, digital cameras, and other digital applications. In the flash market, NAND flash is projected to gradually make its way into the NOR flash share; and the EPROM and EEPROM markets are projected to convey negative trends due to flash memory growth. But EPROM and EEPROM will continue to be used in low-density applications.

Various future nanotechnology-based NVM technologies expected to enter the memory market include MRAM, FRAM, holographic memory, polymer memory, OUM, carbon nanotube memory, and MEMS-based systems. Companies involved in NVM research activities include IBM, Intel, Infineon, and Hitachi.

The report’s projections are firmly based on the assumptions that strong demand for higher density and smaller-sized devices has spurred NVM growth in the digital electronics industry. Emerging advanced memory technologies such as MRAM, FRAM, and OUM should steadliy take away some share of total volatile memory. - Lee Mather

Observations on RoHS Compliance


Despite years of press on the EU’s RoHS Directive, some component suppliers are still surprisingly unaware of how it will affect them. While military and avionics sectors are exempt, for example, equipment that can be used for both military and commercial applications must meet RoHS guidelines.

The list of exemptions can be confusing and is subject to change, as Steve Andrews from the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry pointed out at the IPC/JEDEC 8th International Conference on Lead-free Electronic Components & Assemblies, held April 18-19 in San Jose, Calif. Andrews noted that the Technical Adaption Committee (TAC) received 22 new exemption requests in February. They expect to vote on these in 6 to 8 months, pending information from technical investigations by independent consultants.

While component suppliers vary in their readiness for RoHS implementation, contract manufacturers have been addressing it for quite some time.

Between the gradual use of lead-free components and the various exemptions, companies like Six Sigma can sound a little bit like Sylvester McMonkey McBean from Dr. Seuss’s The Sneeches. For those not familiar with the book, McBean makes a business out of putting stars on plain-bellied sneeches and removing them from star-bellied sneeches - depending on what’s in style at the moment. Customers from Six Sigma’s solder ball preforms, used in BGA rework and repair, include companies wanting to place lead-free balls on their existing BGAs to test them for compatibility with lead-free processing, but also military customers faced with suppliers who have switched to lead-free components. These customers want lead-free balls removed and replaced with tin-lead.

Keith Sweatman’s presentation on tin pest showed the interesting observation that inclusion of 100-ppm lead into nominally pure tin is more effective in suppressing tin pest than any other alloying addition. Standard purity tin (99% pure) contains about this much lead, equal to the maximum concentration proposed by the RoHS directive. So long as ultra-high purity tin is not used for cryogenic applications, tin pest is not something suppliers need to be concerned with. Tin whiskering, however, remains a concern. As the July 2006 deadline to go lead-free approaches, research into tin whiskering continues. Information presented at the IPC/JEDEC Conference indicates that a clear answer as to how to avoid whiskering in matte tin finishes is still elusive.

ASE Fire Is Under Investigation

CHUNGLI, TAIWAN - A fire last month at Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc.’s (ASE) Chungli, Taiwan facilities badly damaged the first 4 floors of the 11-floor building that housed part of ASE’s operations for the production of interconnect materials. Most of the equipment and inventory on other floors, the majority of which is for packaging and test, while not damaged by the fire, were damaged by smoke from the fire. ASE estimates the damage to equipment and inventory, not including the building, at US$130 million.

The fire broke out at approximately 2 p.m. on May 1, following what the company suspects was an explosion of a boiler on the ground floor of the building. It was contained by firefighters within 2 hours. Five ASE employees, one firefighter, and two employees of outside contractors suffered minor injuries and received medical attention.

The Chungli facility houses around 1/10 of ASE’s consolidated packaging and testing capacity. ASE plans to meet any shortfalls in its production of interconnect materials resulting from the fire by increasing the production of its interconnect materials operations in Kaohsiung and Shanghai, as well as through increased purchases from other strategic materials suppliers. - SCJ

SCHOTT Sets Up Encapsulation Shop in Singapore

ELMSFORD, N.Y. - SCHOTT’s new facility in Singapore for electronic components encapsulation, SCHOTT Advanced Packaging Singapore Pte Ltd., officially opened on April 22, 2005. The new facility uses a wafer-level packaging production process to seal chips with glass, eliminating the need for additional housings and bonding wires to enable further component miniaturization, producing a true chip-size, low-profile package. All production takes place in a cleanroom environment, uses 150 process steps, and implements the latest plasma-etching technology, similar to that of semiconductor fabrication, making Singapore an ideal location for this new business. Initial investments amount to over 80 million Singapore dollars, or $50 million U.S. dollars.

Starting with 21 employees and planning to expand to 65 by October 2005, the facility is the newest business in SCHOTT’s Electronic Packaging Business Unit, which offers electronic components encapsulation solutions for the automotive, data communication, and electronics industries. As a whole, the unit employs 1,400 people at locations in Singapore, the U.S., Japan, the Czech Republic, and Germany. - Lee Mather