The Latest New Thing

Though markets tend to go in and out of fashion, it's important for those covering the industry to keep in touch. The optoelectronics market, for instance, has always been a bit elusive, just tantalizing us with possibilities. Yet, because of cost constrictions and the lack of practical manufacturing know-how, the opto market remains a bit out of reach. It continues, however, especially in the research area in university settings. We still will be writing about it for years, as it develops.

Recently, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat/MDR reported that the Bluetooth semiconductor market has made solid progress in spite of economic ups and downs. Currently, this high-tech market research group reports that 2002 final worldwide chipset shipments were at 35.8 million units, a 245 percent growth over 2001. But have you noticed any wonderful “gee whiz” applications? Mobile handsets, led by GSM, have provided a major driving force. Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones have shown growth as well, especially embedded models.

This has been the year that MEMS really took off in practical applications besides the automotive airbag. Whole conferences have been devoted to real products, and companies have been formed around these.

Application improvements happen in this industry like wildfire. For example, Newport Corp. announced the debut of the Mach FC Plus high-speed, automated flip chip bonder at SEMICON Taiwan 2003. The Mach FC Plus is part of Newport's advanced assembly and packaging equipment portfolio as a parallel processing gantry machine platform designed for high-speed flip chip bonding.

It all starts with a little curiosity. Do you remember when you collected lightning bugs and did experiments with them to impress your pals with your knowledge of chemiluminescence? Put them in the fridge and the glow subsides; step on them by mistake and smear the light along the sidewalk; hold a bunch in the prayer-space between your hands and create a flashlight effect.

Now that you're involved in an innovative industry, the word “nano” draws a crowd at most electronics conferences. Last month a co-inventor stopped by our offices to show editors how his company's new “nano” product worked. It's an exciting application that requires a small amount of heat to start, then burns at a high heat. The burning of the product, when used between package layers, causes solder (and other metallics) to melt and join. We haven't had too many demos of burning products in our business-oriented office, so of course this was wicked cool. Look for the full story in our new Notable Developments department in January.

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Gail Flower


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