What, Me Worry?


Come October in New England, things start to happen. Birds eat from feeders like there’s no tomorrow. People change jobs and move into new abodes. Leaves’ true colors fire up in reds, oranges, and yellows. And editors begin to think about the industry over all while finishing up editorial calendars and planning new directions. We worry about the economy, the global packaging industry, and individual market segments. You name it, we feel the need to exercise control, or at least voice an opinion vigorously.

Let’s start at the top. The U.S. housing market has softened with the collapse of the sub-prime loan market. Even foreign banks felt the backlash when some mortgages fell unsupported. Recent Silicon Valley headlines noted that though the U.S. may have a sluggish economy, because of the rising global demand for high-tech products, their economy is perking right along. However, locals there worry too as home sales hit a 15-year low in August of this year.

There are other issues too. If China’s version of RoHS is even stricter than the original European regulations, why have there been so many cases of toys with lead-based paint being exported from China? What irony! On the other hand, SATs providers and IDMs who manufacture in China have not had similar reports. Will our leading advanced packaging firms let the quality drop on Chinese-made products? How many recalls do you hear about from our industry? Not so many.

Now that my angst is covered sufficiently, let’s look at the positive side of things. Global packaging and testing revenues are expected to grow at half the rate in 2007 as they did in 2006, and will continue to improve in 2008 according to Gartner Dataquest’s recent report. However, SATS firms are growing by a third over the next three years, reaching equal footing with original IDMs. By combining total packaging and testing revenues from SATS and IDMs, packaging and testing revenues are predicted to top $48.16 billion this year, up 8.9% from last year. In 2008, Gartner predicts a 12% increase in global packaging and testing revenues. Well now, that’s great news.

Some areas are hotter than others. In 3D stacked die and packages, the rate is estimated at a 20% increase per year (see George Riley’s column, p. 44). Some are higher stacks, such as 16 NAND flash memory chips in a single 1.4-mm-thick version by Samsung. Some are connected with a copper inter-package contact layer using micro-pillars, as in Tessera’s offering. Some connect using through-silicon vias (TSVs) rather than bond wires. IMEC and Amkor are collaborating on finding ways to cut costs. Packaging is one of those areas of the economy that continues to perk right along.

Joe Fjelstad said that 2007 would be a breakout year for his company. When he announced his OCCAM process, a package-first approach to electronics assembly this year (see page 16), who could possibly be shocked? Interconnect without solder…what a novel idea. Stay tuned. This is Advanced Packaging, after all. A challenge here is just an opportunity.

Gail Flower
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