BY JEFFREY C. DEMMIN
LONDON — The United Kingdom is not known as a critical location for semiconductor packaging, but there are numerous companies doing some very interesting work there. On a recent vacation to the U.K., I took the opportunity to visit a few places: assembly and test subcontractor Atlantic Technology, equipment manufacturer DEK, and test and inspection specialist Dage Precision Industries.
Atlantic Technology is an assembly and test subcontractor in the unlikely location of Wales, and it has found some success by developing expertise in RF test. With that specialty in its portfolio, Atlantic has been able to land customers in markets that are doing well these days.
Atlantic's technical edge comes in the field of RF test. Bernie Ramsay, the European sales director at Atlantic, said that this is a difficult technical area, but with some key people working in this area, they have been able to attract many customers with RF applications. Bluetooth products at Cambridge Silicon Radio provide one example. Many other customers are smaller, fabless RF IC design houses, and this has proven to be a good target market. Atlantic Technology began turning a profit again recently with its focus in this field plus a portfolio of QFNs, BGAs and other packages, showing that the strategy is working.
DEK, the printing technology company headquartered in Weymouth on England's Dorset coast, currently is viewing semiconductor packaging as an area for growth beyond its traditional surface mount market. At a meeting at the facility, Chairman John Knowles and President Richard Heimsch both emphasized packaging's importance to the future of its business.
In the last few years, DEK has built a decent business applying printing technology to wafer bumping, ball placement, no-flow underfill and encapsulation. A recent example is the StenSEAL stencil-applied overmold joint development program with Kulicke & Soffa.
Mark Whitmore, future technologies manager at DEK, told Advanced Packaging more about DEK's vision for involvement in the packaging field. One concept is the “DEK package,” in which the primary processes for packaging a semiconductor device are accomplished on DEK equipment. The cost using printing technology for all of these processes is less than other technologies, according to Whitmore.
Dage has had the interesting problem of being the market leader in bond testing, a mature sector. There certainly are new twists to that all the time — Dage recently introduced a bump shear tester for 300 mm wafers but the room for growth has been limited for Dage. Managing Director Paul Walter told Advanced Packaging that they asked their customers what other test and inspection technologies were needed for their businesses. Suggestions included optical inspection and scanning acoustic microscopy, but the mentioned technology that Dage chose was X-ray inspection.
For the full report on U.K. developments, visit the Advanced Packaging Web site at www.apmag.com.