Editors and other people with the luxury of observing and commenting have been exhorting the packaging part of the semiconductor industry to work more closely with the front-end portion of it. Some of those people, including myself, have even urged packaging companies to be more like those in the wafer fab, with the same level of sophistication in things like process control, process integration, logistics and even business models.
Guess what … it's actually happening! We can all probably cite some examples of increased interaction between the front and back ends of our industry, but recently there have been many instances of that that are worth noting.
Kulicke & Soffa, for example, recently announced enhancements to its flip chip technology that include low dielectric constant films, step coverage and topology issues, planarization, and other such topics that are straight out of a wafer fab. Of course, these things have been concerns in wafer-level packaging for a while, but the significant thing is that these fab-like issues are what a packaging company is choosing to present to the public when it discusses the new technology.
Similarly, MTBSolutions and ASE announced flip chip technology with thin film structures that gave me a feeling of déjà vu from my time with Solid State Technology covering the front end of the industry. I could be wrong, but I don't think I've seen a packaging press release that talks about “dielectric spacing control.” Probably not even too many spec sheets cover that. This is the kind of technical detail that is critical in wafer fabrication, though, and now it is more and more important in leading-edge packaging technology too.
One other example was an announcement of Unitive's flip chip technology being used for Micron's memory products. The announcement threw me off a bit because I couldn't tell if it was from the packaging company or the chip company. (I had to look back at the e-mail address of the sender to be sure!) And that's the key — at some point it is all tied together and the barrier that we in the packaging world complain about disappears. The Unitive/Micron work is just one example of how that is happening.
Before you know it, wafer fab equipment giant Applied Materials will be making a presentation at a packaging conference. Oh … that already happened, at MEPTEC's wafer-level packaging conference recently. Now it gets interesting. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,
Jeffrey C. Demmin