Weathering the Storm Together


Gail Flower, Editor-in-Chief

What were the most significant technological advancements in our industry in 2008?

Every year Advanced Packaging pans the industry to get a wide-spectrum view of what to expect from the coming year. Without a doubt, these are economically challenging times by all perspectives in this Forecast. Yet, there are bright spots: 3D packaging with TSV interconnect, photovoltaic technology, laser dicing, flip chip, WLP, sockets families aimed at reducing the cost of test, and lots of new materials. As the magazine devoted to semiconductor device packaging, we wish you the best of success in all your endeavors in 2009. We will be right there to cover each new innovation as it happens.

Jan Vardaman, Techsearch International

Macroeconomic factors will determine the outcome of revenue for the electronics industry for 2009. Higher unemployment and the credit crisis will contribute to lower consumer spending in all sectors, including the electronics industry. Mobile phone and other consumer product sales will see an impact. The first half of 2009 will see lower capacity utilization in wafer foundries and subcontract assembly than in 2008. CAPEX will be lower for both the fab and IC packaging and assembly, impacting the sales of both wafer fab and assembly equipment. The one bright spot is advanced packaging, including flip chip and WLP.

Steve Lerner, Alchimer

Click here to enlarge image

The macroeconomic climate in 2009 will undoubtedly be difficult. But, it is not the semiconductor industry’s first downturn and the industry will manage to work itself out.

The same rules as before will apply; cash and innovation will prevail. Alchimer firmly believe there is no substitute for the latter. We’ve seen some customer’s programs stall, particularly ones from the more financially troubled memory makers. Whilst others are moving ahead full steam with TSV development and Alchimer is expecting to come out of this period stronger than ever.

As in past cycles, increased minaturization and functionality have been key. The iPhone 3G has to rate in the top 10 of consumer roll-outs. Closer to home for Alchimer, the acknowledgement of 3-D interconnects and the rapid development of TSVs have been vital steps forward. Power, space, and cost savings, coupled with increased data and processing density, have all combined to make this a dawn for 3-D IC integration.

David Butler, Aviza Technology, Inc.

As part of the drive to add value to chips, 2008 saw new systems and process technologies emerging for compound semiconductors, MEMS and advanced packaging applications. Advanced packaging, specifically 3D-IC, is an area that continues to gain attention. The level of TSV development activity in 2008 suggests that an integrated solution for its adoption is particularly relevant. Aviza’s introduction of a system that offers an integrated process solution for via formation, including etch, PVD and CVD on one production-proven platform is timely for 3D-IC makers.

While analysts predict another tough year in 2009, investing in future technology will always remain a constant to emerge from economic downturns.

Manish Ranjan, Utratech, Inc.

Click here to enlarge image

Despite the recent series of global economic events, the outlook for advanced packaging applications remains relatively bright. The use of leading-edge logic devices necessitates the adoption of flip chip packaging. In addition to solder bumping, increased feature penetration such as camera, GPS, and mobile TV along with stringent form factor demands have necessitated the use of advanced wafer-level packaging technology for mobile devices.

Successful commercialization of fan-out wafer-level packaging technology by various devices manufacturers such as Infineon Technology and Freescale Semiconductors was a key development in 2008. Fan-out wafer-level packaging offers significant reliability improvements for large die applications and helps bridge the interconnect gap between silicon and substrate.

Joseph Fjelstad, Verdant Electronics

Look for some innovative new technologies, such as solder-free assembly and various wafer level assembly technologies, to begin to take root and grow in the coming year. During 2008, the growth and expansion of 3D packaging and assembly technologies was an obvious advance but the explosive interest in photovoltaic technology, sparked by $150/barrel oil, was clearly a focal point for industry attention. The $64,000 dollar question is will the interest wane now that the price of oil has retreated back to under $50/barrel. Given the improvements in photovoltaic efficiencies there is good reason to hope that this will not follow a similar fate that optoelectronics did following the dotcom bust.

James Forester, CTO Antares Advanced Test Technologies

The current economic climate will cause a reduction of the overall served available market (SAM) for certain products. The deployment of 0.3mm pitch CSPs could be delayed as companies look for opportunities to reduce costs and establish process improvements, while maximizing existing equipment and infrastructure and slowing forward-looking development.

Tom Walsh, NEXX Systems

With the uncertainty in capital markets, we must be prepared for more economic surprises. Through this downturn, NEXX has invested in advanced technologies that support TSV and fan-out capability.

Our most significant technological developments are occurring with 3D packaging:

A void-free TSV plating process for up to 10:1 aspect ratio vias, using complementary hardware and chemistry solution, and an advanced PVD process capable of sputtering seed layers into 5:1 aspect ratio vias.

Since packaging costs pressures will continue to drive our industry, we’re working closely with strategic partners to deliver both plating and PVD solutions for WLP applications with better productivity at lower cost.

Paul Magill, Nextreme Thermal Solutions

For large companies, activity will be curtailed in 2009. However, for startups, the situation is very different. Startups that already have funding are in good shape to weather this downturn. Those having to go to the market for money this summer will be in a very difficult position and may not be able to get continued funding. This could lead to a significant downturn in the creativity emerging from U.S. electronics industry.

Increased awareness on energy consumption (due to the oil bubble) and the industry’s impact on its consumption are leading to fundamental changes in how we design and build electronic devices. This is illustrated well by looking at data centers. Currently, data centers consume 4% of the energy in the US and this is expected to rise to 16% in 3 years. One interesting item to note is recent Nortel advertisements attacking Cisco for its energy tax. Clearly with energy consumption at levels in the double digits, we should expect that the opportunity to save money will bring along with it a lot of innovation.

C.H. Ang, Unisem Group

For Unisem Group, the most significant technology advancement in 2008 was our copper wire bonding production. Copper is the future for wire bonding based on the tremendous increase in industry demand. In our Batam factory alone, Unisem is shipping millions of units per week. Additionally, the Etched Leadless Package (ELP) advancements brought the industry a low-cost multi-row QFN solution providing immediate benefits that help emerging technologies come to market.

Andreas Mader, Henkel Corp.

To control costs, packaging firms must look at new opportunities for lean manufacturing, including supply chain reductions and partnering with low-risk suppliers who deliver true value, as well as turning to cost-effective materials and equipment process inputs.

On the materials side, steady advancements were made during 2008 toward more efficient processing of miniaturized devices and their required thinner and more delicate die. Henkel’s 2008 commercialization of wafer backside coating (WBC) technologies, along with the development of self-filleting die-attach adhesives portfolio are examples of two material classes that are enabling applications that were heretofore not manufacturable — at lower costs.

Paul Lindner, EV Group

We expect to see manufacturers first apply 3D/TSV and nanoimprint lithography technologies to devices that are driven by stringent form factor and performance requirements. Paving the road to increase adoption are IDMs and foundries that are driven by mobile consumer product development. In 2009, we expect to see these adopters establishing and proving the processes, which in turn will catalyze industry-wide adoption of 3D/TSV and nanoimprint lithography through the year and into 2010.

Rajiv Roy, Rudolph Technologies, Inc.

In 2009, companies will invest more in technological capabilities that will help them remain competitive and give them a head start when market conditions improve. At Rudolph, we will engage in substantial development programs for our high-throughput 2D inspection, 3D bump inspection, and probe card analysis systems. Though it is still in early stages, we also expect the development of 3D ICs to accelerate rapidly, bringing radically new processes and materials into both the wafer fab and packaging environments and requiring innovative solutions for inspection, metrology, and process control.

Andy C. Mackie, Ph.D. Indium, Corp.

Click here to enlarge image

Even if the semiconductor market experiences the projected stagnation in 2009, there will still be significant growth in the outsourced semiconductor and power semiconductor assembly markets (SAM/PSAM). Driven by legislative demands, device makers will focus on halogen/halide-free and lead-free solutions, but economic factors will drive manufacturers to eliminate non-value-added processes and adopt no-clean processes.

The major story in SAM/PSAM in 2008 was the universal need for halogen-free fluxes. Demand for these has increased and will keep doing so into 2009, although there is still fierce debate about what constitutes “halogen-free.”

In response to changes to the European “end-of-life” vehicle legislation, power semiconductor die-attach customers have begun asking for high-melting point alternatives to high-lead solders currently in use. We saw several novel approaches to this problem in 2008, including diffusion-bonding, and the introduction of new lead-free solders.

Michael Brianda, DEK International

In the short-term and until the credit freeze thaws, packaging firms will be forced to get more out of their process, taking a hard look at equipment utilization, cost of ownership and supply chain efficiency. While these measures should hold true during strong economic climates, in weaker financial times they are non-negotiable. Harnessing the power of single systems that address multiple applications, partnering with suppliers who deliver positive returns on process improvement and selecting fewer, yet more capable, vendors in the supply chain will help packaging companies reduce costs and maintain competitiveness.

While there wasn’t any particularly revolutionary packaging technology introduced at DEK in 2008 there were advancements in handling and processing smaller, thinner, and more complex die and devices in a cost-efficient way. Development of wafer coating capabilities, for example, allows for proven materials deposition technology to print die attach adhesives onto the backside of wafers, enabling high-volume, lower cost manufacturing than has been previously available.

Jon Diller, Interconnect Devices, Inc.

Declining demand over the coming period will be a catalyst for increased competition and consolidation. The decline has been unusually sharp; it is so sudden and so dramatic that technology advances will not have time to make up for the narrowing window of value that our industry will present next year, and many players will falter and be assimilated.

Developments in wafer-level chip scale packaging made the greatest impact among advancements during 2008.This discipline rewards industry leaders who have pursued it with a greatly decreased cost of test and higher value throughout the manufacturing process.

Neil O’Brien, FINETECH

From an advanced packaging perspective, we still see strong demand and interest in high-accuracy bonding technology. Many customers are focusing on yield rather than volume. In these areas, I am optimistic that we will see steady demand.

Continued advances in 3D integration as well as adoption of device stacking processes were significant in 2008. We saw more demand for die-to-wafer and through-silicon via (TSV) applications. Our thermal management and heating technologies are being used in new ways to help address these advances.

Doug Farlow, Production Solutions

Although segments of our industry will continue to experience a decline, some, such as medical, environmental, energy and military, will grow. These may expand manufacturing and require new investments. Other manufacturers that may not be expanding capacity due to tightening credit or cautious cash flow management may still invest in areas such as equipment utilization tools and process improvement products.

These tools and products will address areas such as equipment changeover, quality improvement, increasing equipment uptime, inventory management and tracking, inspection and test. Implementation in these areas will continue to make manufacturers more competitive and profitable.

Mark T. McMeen, STI Electronics

The need for cell phones and other handheld devices, especially in developing countries, will bode well for the advanced packaging market. Overall development for advanced packaging requirements will be strong in 2009 as expectations for product releases and market demand for new products will shift to 2010.

In 2008, increased interest in embedding passive and actives inside the PCB substrate launched a movement to create 3D electronic assemblies whereby the PCB is integrated along with its components into the smallest form factor and greatest performance capability possible. This direction will continue to drive technological advances in packaging as well as overall system design. STI’s embedded component/die technology is pushing the technological envelope for miniaturization and thermal management of a 3D electronic assembly that uses embedded actives and passives as well as advanced packaged subsystems.

Bryan Gass, Techcon Systems, a brand of OK International

The current economic climate will fuel the market to find increases in efficiencies. Implementing new processes in manufacturing will improve productivity and reduce waste. Customers will look to the material and equipment manufacturers for new or improved solutions in addressing these concerns.

The latest advances in PCB design are pushing the envelope in technical design. As package size is reduced and part density is increased, new challenges arise. Equipment manufacturers will need to meet these challenges. Techcon Systems, for example, has designed a disposable material Path pump, which meets the increased challenges of dispensing a precise amount material with a wide variety of adhesives.

Al Cabral, VJ Electronix, Inc.

Click here to enlarge image

In 2008, advancements in lead-free processing from the material science community optimized high-reliability applications. The evolution of shrinking product form factors increased component I/O and densities. Technologies like package-on-package (PoP) are being used more frequently to expand into 3D. Other high-density packages gained favor, unveiling new processing challenges. Computed tomography (CT) X-ray is likely to be required for inspection to determine whether to engage in advanced stacked rework processes. Additionally, concerns over PCB damage during the repair process are forcing manufacturers to look at implementing non-contact solder removal capability.

John Isaac, Mentor Graphics Corp.

The use of high-density interconnects (HDI) and microvias is increasing as BGA pin-out densities overwhelm the use of traditional PCB through-hole vias. HDI is becoming necessary to fan out from these dense BGAs and route to other components on the PCB. Not only is Mentor driven to supply additional HDI fan-out functionality in our tools but also publish design guidelines for the industry.

Florian Schildein, Essemtec AG

In this economic climate, companies must be more efficient regarding their working and development process. Customers are more price-sensitive than before when shopping for equipment. Beside the common features of each machine, the demand for special service and support values is rising. But if you narrow it down to one point, the electronic market will grow in the future. Maybe some general developments in the market will come later, because of missing investments. The market will consolidate on the supplier and customer side.

In 2008, Essemtec introduced a versatile placement machine for complex components like BGA, Micro-BGA, CSP, flip chip, and fine-pitch QFP. The company also customized tools, for example a vacuum table for handling flex boards and film substrates, and a vacuum down holder for the process of pick-and-place on flex boards.

Claudio Orefice, High-Tech Conversions Inc.

Because of the state of the economy, we need to work harder and smarter. We will emphasize to our customers and prospects how our products can offer cost savings because of their effectiveness. We will convey that we are in this together, and together we will get through this “climate.”

Effective green products were the most significant advance in 2008. We now have a stencil cleaning wipe that is pre-saturated with a solvent that is non-flammable, non-toxic, biodegradable, safe on stencils, and human beings. These wipes are next-generation and made with cotton.

Robert Rogers, Wentworth Labs. 

Click here to enlarge image

We expect the probe card TAM to shrink in 2009; however we also expect to continue to see growth as peripheral bond pad devices transition to flip chip/C4 technology. Our core products are flip-chip-driven, both by volume and new device introduction, so we anticipate more new devices but potentially lower quantities of production-driven repeat orders.The primary technology advancements we’ve experienced in 2008 are reduced pitch and extremely high current requirements of flip chip devices. The industry has broken the pitch barrier of 180-190µm and is now seeking pitches well below 150µm. Increased integration is also driving demand for probes capable of carrying substantially higher currents.

Phil Vere, Dage Precision Industries

Semiconductor packaging is moving toward 3D packaging with devices containing more bumped die. At the same time, the use of lead-free solder makes these devices susceptible to brittle fracture failures at the solder ball to pad interface. High-speed bondtesting has proven to be a reliable indicator of drop test performance without the expensive and ambiguous results.

High strain rate bond testing has become an established technique for detecting brittle fracture failures in lead-free materials. Conventional force measurement provides poor discrimination between different failure modes, but bond failure energy measurements detect subtle differences between solder materials, bump metallization and process parameter changes. Thus energy measurement during bondtesting assures full compliance with JEDEC standards.

Harald Wack, Ph.D., Zestron, Inc.

Product innovations in the telecommunication industry are pursuing the integration of various, previously separated user functions. It will be interesting to see, at what point consumers will be truly able to only use one handheld device for most of their daily needs. Within our industry we have noted some intriguing innovations targeted to reduce operating costs as well, i.e. the Electrovert’s Omni Excel series. As the industry faces lower revenues next year, all companies will be refocusing efforts on customers’ needs. We do foresee that 2009 will hold a number of tremendous innovations mainly designed to help users lower their respective operating costs.

Han Park, NEC Electronics

There were two significant technological advancements in 2008, both of which NEC Electronics has implemented in its 90-nm technology. First was the development of a new methodology of electrical characterization to support system board-level signal integrity (SI) and power integrity (PI) analysis. This allows designers to eliminate critical noise sources from the device during the chip and package development stage through the system-level analysis, which allows them to reduce device iterations in the early stage.

Second was the development of thinner PoP solutions, which provide strong advantages for heat dissipation and thermal performance for cellular phones, as well as for gaming products and digital TV chip sets, which previously used FCBGA or PBGA packaging technologies. Side-by-side SiP and stacked-chip SiP in QFP shape became a main component of advanced package solutions for optical drive devices.