In the News


From the Tradeshow Floor: IMAPS Device Packaging

By Meredith Courtemanche, Assistant Editor
At IMAPS International Conference and Exhibition on Device Packaging, March 19-22, 2007, in Scottsdale, AZ, advanced technologies in materials and equipment displayed technical advances in the packaging space. Lead-free, flip chips, MEMS, and every variety of stacked package seemed to be the main topics of technical sessions and keynotes.

Suzanne Redding, global marketing strategy manager; and Eugene Douglass, process development engineer, of Rohm & Haas advanced packaging division, noted that most customers are looking to implement fine-pitch designs successfully, and require advanced materials for this transition. A lead-free product portfolio from the company gives customers options from different lead-free materials tailored to different needs. While the company is trying to determine a precise value for a smaller show like this one, Douglass noted, “I’m here to learn.”

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Robert L. Hubbard, Lambda Technologies, Inc., found a trend in materials toward lower-stress, lower-temperature cure dielectrics and adhesive materials. This reduces warpage and cracks, especially in wafer-level packages, caused by stress and shrinkage, but can drive up cure times and lower production rates. Packaging consortia are actively seeking the new family of materials that offer low modulus, low CTE, faster cure, and crosslinking for stability.

Rao Tummala, founding director, Georgia Tech’s Packaging Research Center, and Advanced Packaging Advisory Board member, spoke about moving past Moore’s Law into the second law, the “System Integration Law,” wherein IC, package, and board integrate, forming a system-on-package (SoP). He referred to this next step in device packaging as a move from multifunctional devices to megafunctional products.

Robert Avila, western regional manager at Finetech, said he enjoys the local nature of the show, and that the customers he sees at the exhibition travel from California, Washington, Seattle, and other locations to be at the IMAPS event. “The professionalism, and focus, of the IMAPS show is really a draw,” he explained. And so, of course, is the golf. Avila demonstrated the key functionalities of Finetech’s die bonders: the stationary optics allow for higher accuracy in die-to-substrate alignment, and the bonding process is laboratory driven, meaning that magnification and resolution are high.

Amaneh Tasooji, Ph.D., Arizona State University, spoke with Advanced Packaging about the school’s advanced packaging educational programs. The university offers a flexible array of degree and non-degree options. The packaging program offers masters and Ph.D. programs, and certification programs tailored to a particular company’s objectives. It also “cross pollinates” knowledge with the other engineering sciences programs. ASU’s Center of Excellence involves government, academia, and industry in a program of packaging research steered by needs expressed within industry. “Packaging has become a major differentiator,” Tasooji explained. Nicholas Leonardi, CMC Interconnect Technologies in Tempe, noticed that Arizona is developing into a “Silicon Valley satellite.” Having mature, productive programs at nearby ASU pushes high-tech growth locally, he asserted.

Gartner Predicts Downturn For Equipment

STAMFORD, CT - Semiconductor capital equipment revenues will experience a 3% decline in sales revenues in 2007, and a cyclical downturn through 2010, according to Gartner Dataquest’s Insight report. Inventories remain high, with many backend segments using 80-85% of capacity, negating interest in capital equipment investments. Memory sector investment will drive the market, and capacity may outweigh demand.

The semiconductor assembly and test services (SATS) market will grow 6.2%, predicts Gartner. Major SATS providers reported 5-15% revenue drops in Q ’01 2007 against Q ’04 2006, though Gartner sees the industry recovering from March through June to post a 5.7% growth rate in Q’02, and 7.1% during the Q’03 holiday-season ramp. Pricing for memory and high-lead-count packages remains stable, and SATS are incorporating effectively tested technology (eTT) techniques to shorten turn times on complex components, such as DDR2 and 3 devices. Utilization will be stable at 80-85%.

Packaging and assembly equipment (PAE) companies are expected to post revenue drops of about 12.2% in 2007. At a 3.8% compound annual growth rate from 2005 to 2011, the PAE segment will vary yearly, showing possible 20% growth in 2008, followed by a decline of 15% in 2009. Gartner’s consensus is that package unit output crested in mid-2006, along with other back-end segments, and is experiencing lower growth due to a cautious trend with SATS providers, high inventories at chip manufacturers, and varying device sales. Packaging technology remains in the forefront for the industry as product lifecycles shorten and companies try to reach market at key times. Flip chips, while a growing segment, remain limited by substrate costs, says Gartner. System-in-package (SiP), 3D, and other stacked-package approaches are resolving cost and time-to-market limitations in the semiconductor industry.

Automated test equipment (ATE) will decrease by 11.2%, fallout from peak percentages in mid-2006. This market will remain slow throughout 2007, but is expected to rebound in 2008 with 19.8% growth. Gartner estimates the ATE segment will experience 4.6% compound annual growth 2005-2011, mirroring the cycles experienced in the packaging sector.

Consumption will continue to grow in the Asia-Pacific, with 75% of PAE sales and 65% of ATE sales going to this region by 2011. China will overtake Taiwan as the largest consumer of PAE equipment, equaling 23% market share. As more IDMs and OEMs outsource test to SATS providers, ATE sales to the Asia-Pacific will increase, and support regional growth.

Although first-quarter equipment sales rose 3% in 2007, soft book-to-bill ratios and high inventory levels at manufacturers and distributors suggest a slow year. Though growth in 2008 may reach nearly 15%, stagnant device consumption, inventory overages, and over-investment in memory markets could create an environment of over-supply and extra capacity, lowering predictions for equipment sales. If inventories are controlled and factory utilization rates remain in the 80-90% range, equipment producers could see moderate but sustained expansion, Gartner concludes. Capital spending is forecast for $61.1B in 2007.