Don’t Forget the Equipment Engineers

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Last month in this space I highlighted the importance of the material suppliers to the future of our industry. As if they had a preview copy of that, the equipment engineers ambushed me at SEMICON West with more brilliant developments than I have ever seen at a single event.

I have thought and said that the makers of conventional packaging equipment have wrung out most of what they can get from their products, but I was proven profoundly wrong by many things I saw at SEMICON West. Our detailed report on the event in this issue discusses many more of these developments, but let me mention a few here. The supposedly mature technology of wire bonding provided plenty of examples all by itself.

At the top of the list is the demonstration by Kulicke & Soffa of a 25 µm pitch wire bonding process. There certainly are material issues there, but there has to be an awful lot of clever hardware engineered into that capability.

ESEC introduced its new rotary bonding at SEMICON, which they claim will increase the throughput of the process significantly. The interesting thing is that ESEC had a press release and announcement about that key piece of hardware in the equipment, six months or so before the piece of equipment into which the component goes will be introduced. That is a sure sign of how serious they are about their engineering.

Palomar Technologies introduced a clever bumping process featuring gold ball bonds that are sheared off in a single motion, eliminating the need for a separate coining process to create flat and coplanar tops on the bumps. That bit of engineering makes this approach seem much more like a “real” process rather than a band-aid to meet a looming milestone.

Finally, F&K Delvotec was at SEMICON West promoting its wire bonding process control capability. This consists of a sensor in the equipment that measures bond deformation during the process, and it adjusts the process parameters accordingly in real time. This is very sophisticated, and it is a great example of the kind of thing that makes it perfectly possible to picture these technologies continuing their advances into the next decade.

I was expecting the big story at SEMICON West to be the two consortia, SECAP and APiA, and they certainly provided their share of news, but many of the best stories that I found were solidly in the realm populated by good old-fashioned engineers. Congratulations to them for pushing their envelopes so well for so long!

Thanks for reading,

Jeffrey C. Demmin
Editor-in-Chief
jeffd@pennwell.com

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