Alphabet Soup

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There are some things that this industry really needs, such as a solid dictionary to sort out the various elements of alphabet soup and to standardize the language of the field engineer. For example, using system-on-chip (SoC), Pittsburgh-based Akustica's latest product integrates the functionality of multiple microphones or speakers in a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) onto a single, standard CMOS chip. If you take many wire-bonded or bumped dice with one or more passive devices and combine them in a single package, you come up with a system-in-package (SiP).

Eventually, what becomes most amazing is not the alphabetical soup — the initials used to communicate new ideas — but rather the excitement of these new ideas that abound in the packaging field. Alan Greenspan recently stated that the U.S. economy is poised to grow at a noticeably better pace in the second half of 2003, provided business spending picks up. This industry is not just poised, it's on the cusp. This year 57 companies submitted their creative advancements for award consideration at the most recent Advanced Packaging awards. Reserve Wednesday, July 16 for the Advanced Packaging/SEMI-sponsored awards program during SEMICON West.

Advanced packaging is exciting, even when markets are bumping along. Many new announcements have come across my desk this week that illustrate this: Feinfocus and Palomar collaborate to advance process development and prototyping services; Scotts Valley-based Carsem is celebrating a creative and profitable year, according to Paul Smith, director of marketing and San Jose-based MTBSolutions has a wafer testing invention that will make a solid difference in quality improvements.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the immediate headlines declaring 200,000 unemployed in Silicon Valley, the 6 percent unemployment nationwide or the shutdown of OSE-USA in San Jose on June 21 represent negative signs. However, it does take wisdom to see beyond today and into the future.

“We've been through semiconductor downturns in the past, the fundamentals that are keeping this one going represent a lack of consumer confidence,” says Pac Tech USA's President Ron Blankenhorn. “As we go through this year, there will be a slow but positive return of consumer confidence. Semiconductor inventories are not yet depleted, fewer chips are being built because consumers aren't buying more product. There's less spending in our industry for equipment. My advice is to buy something.”

As I write this editorial, SEMI reports a 0.99 Book-to-Bill rating, meaning that $99 in orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month. Signs of hope are growing. Perhaps alphabet soup in this industry can be another source of chicken soup for this economy.

Gail Flower


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