Front End, Back End and a Little of the Middle

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Now that SEMICON West is upon us the idea of back-end and front-end points out the separation of each step of electronics packaging. Each step in the process sometimes becomes so removed from the mainstream that engineers may lose sight of how an understanding of the whole benefits each step.

PennWell has a magazine covering most electronics niches. There's one for the front-end assembly, Solid State Technology; one for the back end, Advanced Packaging; and Surface Mount Technology for board assemblers. The editors and publishers for each of our magazines share information constantly while looking for new ways to serve both readers and advertisers. As a result, the group has come up with some original ideas for supplements, conferences, new magazines and newsletters. It seems that every time we gather, the excitement and transfer of knowledge increases.

Recently, Advanced Packaging has worked with MEPTEC to sponsor a one-day conference, Where the Component Meets the Board, to be held August 28 at the Four Points Sheraton in Sunnyvale, Calif. This gave us a chance to speak to packaging designers and engineers as well as the board-level manufacturing experts and end user markets. What we found, when putting these groups together, was that they didn't know each other as well as we thought they did.

One group, the contract manufacturers, associated with both levels at a high level of understanding. Reliability issues and customers are dealt with in this arena daily. For instance, Dongkai Shangguan, PhD, director of advanced process technology at Flextronics is both a customer for stacked packages as well as assembler of them. At Flextronics, chip scale packages (CSPs) are stacked during the surface mount assembly process using conventional SMT equipment. It makes sense from a business viewpoint, since allowing the contract assembler to stack individual packages during the SMT process offers greater flexibility in supply chain management and opportunity to reduce time to market.

It's easy to see why some packaging ideas are guarded to protect their competitive edge. One company assembling an advanced package in an encapsulated “pill” for photographic reproduction of a patient's intestinal tract, for example, might not want to reveal how their hot new product is designed. Others did want to talk about their latest developments at the MEPTEC conference, yet 14 experts agreed to speak about board assembly of advanced packages from different viewpoints: reliability, end user areas, process control and future predictions. This should result in a great brainstorming session on how to manufacture electronics for severe environments, how to deal with lead-free materials, process control and other diverse topics.

Gail Flower


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