The Latest in Packaging Research

Every now and then, it’s especially good to step out of your normal activities and see what’s going on at other companies and universities. That’s exactly what we were doing when we visited Georgia Tech’s Packaging Resource Center (PRC) in Atlanta, Georgia, last month. Professor Rao Tummala, Ph.D., is on our advisory board, so we caught up with his most recent areas of interest. The PRC invited us to their open house, which featured presentations on emerging and disruptive packaging technologies for the next decade. The day-long event was intended for technical managers, executives from the industry’s R&D, and others interested in learning about the PRC’s vision of system-on-package (SoP). Other notable topics included WLP, MEMS, and RF packaging.

The setting alone impressed us, so factory-like with labs for individual areas of focus, such as optoelectronics, WLP, RF, specialized alliances with the industry, and digital areas. The PRC integrates research, education, infrastructure, and the industry in collaborative efforts, transferring the knowledge from leading-edge research to actual, practical products. Industries partner with universities – investing cash, but gaining key insights into new areas of research.

Tummala began by having all 40 attendees introduce themselves, and then quickly began explaining why SoP is such a focus for the PRC. With SoP, the package, not the board, is the system. As such, it addresses the shortcomings of the system-on-chip (SoC), the system-in-package (SiP), and other traditional packages. The SoP uses CMOS-based silicon for transistor integration and the package for RF, optical, and digital integration by using IC package system co-design. It has global wiring and RF, digital, and optical component integration in the package, including both active and passive components in thin-film form. The SoP goes one step further toward the ultimate 3-D integration of components in thin-film form at microscale, and eventually at nanoscale levels.

Packaging has been looked at as assembly, but without a science base. Now with research, like that performed at Georgia Tech’s PRC, advanced packaging has gleaned much needed respect as well as industry support. Taking a broader view, “Silicon technology, which is only about a $150 to $200 billion (USD) per year industry by itself – less than Wal-Mart’s total sales – has led to a trillion-dollar (USD) industry in systems with hardware, software applications, and services,” says Tummala.

PRC system companies, such as IBM, HP, Nokia, Sony, and Motorola, have been actively recognizing the benefits of SoP technologies. Semiconductor companies, like Intel, AMD, TI, and others, have received benefits from flip chip to WLP research.

The moving force for such cooperative efforts can be summed up into one word – “integration.” Integration at lower cost presents a driving force for university research at the package level.

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Gail Flower


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