By Mark Diorio
It's that time of year again when we all have Semicon West on our minds or agendas. We are anxiously waiting to see the latest and greatest in semiconductor manufacturing – specifically as it relates to packaging, assembly and test. Some of us may be planning only a visit, while others are making last-minute preparations for their exhibits. While Semicon Singapore (held in May) has done a fine job of attracting the key buyers and sellers of many back-end manufacturers and suppliers from around the world, the big one – the one where everyone pulls out all the bells and whistles both technically and socially, the one many hate but never miss – is still Semicon West.
Semicon West has become larger than life. It is held just 45 minutes north of Silicon Valley and, regardless of what some may say, the semiconductor industry is still very well entrenched, continuing to grow and prosper in this region. The show continues to attract the Who's Who in semiconductors, and that in itself is the draw for attendees and exhibitors alike.
The number of companies requiring space at Semicon West is staggering. As a matter of fact, it has come to the point where either some companies must be turned away or a new venue will have to be selected. In both cases, this would be detrimental to the industry at large. Often, the youngest and newest companies are turned away because the waiting list for small booths can be immense. This is unfortunate, as these companies often have very creative ideas and products that address our current and future needs.
Exhibitors and guests check out the floor at the San Jose Convention Center during 1999's SemiWest exhibition.
An idea that rears its head every so often is the concept of moving the venue farther away from Silicon Valley to a place that can accommodate the show's expanding needs (maybe even under one roof). Great idea … unless attendance goes down or key players are lost. After all, although the semiconductor executives of Silicon Valley are indeed open-minded business people and technologists, they are creatures of habit running on tight and hectic schedules. It's easy to jump in the car and zoom up to San Francisco or San Jose on a moment's notice when a meeting gets cancelled and there is a hole in the schedule. It is quite another to arrange for airplanes, limos and extended time away from the office.
Have you noticed the size of some of the booths? Some companies display entire assembly lines (and I say this in the plural) in a booth. These companies must be thinking that their customer runs a plant and has never seen an assembly line before. A bigger booth is not always better. What is important is the content of innovation and the ability to adequately demonstrate or discuss it with your buyers. Perhaps consideration could be given to limiting or reducing booth size at the existing location so more companies can exhibit. This seems like such a fundamental idea that I am sure someone thought about this long before I did. But it probably got vetoed by the SEMI board members who tend to represent the older, more established companies that like to have large booths to reflect their company's prosperity and enhance their image to their customers and shareholders (while at the same time downplaying their latest innovations or lack thereof). The SEMI employee who suggested it is probably stuck in a closet somewhere documenting specifications.
Someone once had a great (and modest) idea about taking the whole show onto the Internet (ah, yes, it was me in my May 1999 column!). Sometimes great ideas are slow to materialize, but most likely the next generation of semiconductor executives will opt for this solution. I think that one of the difficulties in trying this today is that it would be necessary to retrain show personnel because a different skill set is required. The skill set that show management needs to employ today in dealing with venue, facilities, logistics, various unions and shipping companies is considerably different from the computing skills and technical acumen required to put on an Internet show. So, we probably have to table this idea for now.
Regardless of some of the show's difficulties, it is still the best show in the world when it comes to the semiconductor industry. I am continually amazed by the new products I find at this show. And because the industry has been on the rise for the last year or so, I would expect this show to be as big as any when it comes to new product introductions, inventions and innovations (provided we don't discourage too many of those new, up-and- coming companies from attending). I am sure that many of you are waiting with bated breath to see and discover new ways of reliably flip chip assembling large silicon die. Or perhaps you have been waiting to see those new underfills dispensed. Maybe you'll take a look at those flex tape BGAs that everyone has been talking about. How about the flexible DUT board system using laser programmable card inserts? Whatever it is you discover, I'd like to know about it and have your opinion. If you come across something that you feel is really outstanding and is beneficial to advancement of packaging, assembly or test, please let me know. Just send me an e-mail with the company's name and some reasons for your enthusiasm. I'd appreciate hearing from you.
So, go off to the show. Meet your colleagues. See your suppliers or customers. Enjoy yourself. Have a cocktail if you wish. It's been a good year to bask in the sun. We don't know when we might have this euphoria again. See, hear and talk. And remember … if you find a product or a company that you really feel WOW! about, let me know.
Have a good show!
Mark Diorio, chief operating officer, can be contacted at MTBSolutions Inc., 2685 Marine Way, Suite 1220, Mountain View, CA 94943; 650-960-3203; E-mail: [email protected].