2007: Packaging Saves the World


Gail FlowerEditor-in-Chief

Perhaps for the first time in electronics, packaging has come into its own. As you read this forecast for 2007, you will notice a new attitude filled with confidence and enthusiasm. As Alec Babiarz of Asymtek contends, “Even during low growth periods in the semiconductor markets, the advanced packaging areas continue to grow.” Just think of the different types of packaging enjoying healthy growth: MEMS, flip chips, the alphabet soup of stacked packages (SiP, SoP, PoP), and chip-scale packaging. As James Kim of Amkor asserted, the biggest challenge for advanced packaging companies is to responsibly accommodate growth. Is it any wonder that a super hero is on the cover of this first issue of 2007? Advanced packages may be small, but they’re profitably growing, and it’s in the packaging area that new ideas, new technologies, and new ways of controlling cost are beginning to lead the industry.

Joe Fjelstad, SiliconPipe, Inc.

2007 should be the breakout year for SiliconPipe’s technologies. We realized early on that our solutions would not be of immediate use to the electronics industry; however, the anticipated problems are beginning to appear. For example, there are signs that some of our solutions for the computer memory bottleneck are taking hold among prospective users. We also expect to finalize software to allow designers to characterize system performance fully before committing it to manufacture.

To paraphrase a modern aphorism, a challenge is nothing more than an opportunity in the rough. The biggest challenges are often more bound up in people than in technology. As much as the electronics industry prides itself on its mastery of change, it is still change resistant at certain levels. Manufacturing abhors change when it is not needed; lead-free comes to mind as an example. Moreover, incumbent technologies, like incumbent politicians, do not step aside voluntarily. However, change is inevitable. Preparing for, adapting to, managing, and controlling change are matters of choice.

Alec Babiarz, Asymtek

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Display technology is becoming an important segment of advanced packaging. For instance, dispensing a phosphor-filled silicone adhesive onto a blue LED in the packaging process makes a white LED. Other display devices like liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) require one drop filling (ODF) of liquid crystal and a UV-adhesive seal prior to encapsulation of the device with a glass window. The display market has provided a new dispensing market for jetting adhesives. Flip chip continues to grow and is now a standard part of packaging. Flip chips must be underfilled, and jetting is the way to effectively apply that underfill. The semiconductor cycle is still the biggest challenge; conventional wisdom says that 2007 will be slower for the industry. The unit volume of flip chips continues to grow at over 20%. Even during low growth periods in the semiconductor markets, the advanced packaging areas continue to grow and the capability that jetting provides offers our customers technology for continuous improvement.

Bill Sinclair, Aries Electronics

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There will be a continuing push for more function on less space. Some device pitches are now on 0.4 mm and the low-end is headed for 0.3 mm in 2007. Although the RoHS initiative went into effect in 2006, many BGA devices are still available with tin/lead balls, which is still allowed (and even preferred) in many military applications. The proliferation of devices leads to a proliferation of burn-in sockets to accommodate. But the high cost of these sockets is a major challenge. Previously, Aries manufactured RF and CSP test sockets to work with devices with pitches as low as 0.4 mm. In 2007, the company will introduce test and burn-in versions that will work with 0.3-mm pitch. Aries will continue to expand its line of Correct-A-Chip products to include adapters that convert RoHS-compliant BGA devices to tin/lead, and vice-versa. We have initiated several cost-reduction programs for the many burn-in socket options offered for CSP devices.

Mike Konrad, Aqueous Technologies Corp.

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We are planning two major campaigns for 2007 - one around new products, and the other philosophical. Three environmentally responsible products will be introduced in 2007. One is an automatic defluxing system requiring little water, chemicals, power, and space. In concert with Simple Green, we are creating stencil-cleaning chemicals. Another series of automatic defluxing systems will operate in a zero-discharge configuration.

Philosophically, we are changing how we interface with both prospective and real customers. A direct-to-factory sales strategy will be introduced to put prospective customers in direct contact with factory sales and technical staff, enabling immediate and accurate responses to their queries. Our principle goals for 2007 are to increase our product offerings to meet the demands of lead-free implementations while also addressing growing environmental restrictions. These two philosophies are normally at odds with each other and present real engineering challenges. It is challenging to persuade customers that they might benefit from a direct relationship with the factory rather than a third-party contracted agency.

James Kim, Amkor Technology, Inc.

Industry analysts are currently projecting semiconductor industry growth between 5 and 11% in 2007. We believe a growth rate of 10 to 15% is optimal. It does not require a significant investment in working capital or capacity, and provides the opportunity to better align our production assets with our growth. Amkor’s business objectives in 2007 will be to generate profitable, sustainable growth; to support our customers; and to maintain industry leadership in advanced packaging and test technologies. In 2008, semiconductor growth could accelerate, stimulated by presidential elections in the U.S., the Olympics in China, and other factors. Signs of this potential growth are likely to appear in the second half of 2007. Amkor’s challenge, and the challenge for our industry, will be to responsibly accommodate this potential growth while avoiding the creation of a capacity bubble similar to what the industry experienced in 2000 and 2004.

Michael R. Burgess, Photo Stencil

Photo Stencil will continue to be challenged to solve complex printing issues. The small components of today’s packages require tools that can print smaller features. All known stencil technologies (chemical etch, laser-cut with post processing options, and AMTX electroformed) are available at our global headquarters. Our staff tackles and solves complex printing problems for the advancement of our industry.

We expect to see more lead-free process developments and optimization in the year ahead. Greater use of 0201 and 01005 chip components, as well as 0.4-mm-pitch BGAs, will tighten the process window. Our challenge in 2007 is to help our customers expand the process window, reduce defects, increase yields, and reduce their manufacturing cost in this competitive industry.

Lyman Brown, BPM Microsystems

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In 2007 the industry and customer base will begin to adopt the programming product Helix - a low-cost, simple, and small automated programming solution. As semiconductor chips grow smaller, the effective manual handling of these devices becomes less of an option. The programming of lead-free semiconductor devices has shortened the life span of many socket module toolings we offer. We now offer specialized sockets designed for lead-free parts, but this causes our customers to scrap some existing tooling and purchase the lead-free version. This is just one more example of the hidden costs of lead-free manufacturing adoption that are rippling through the electronics industry.

John Hartner, DEK

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With chip-scale packaging now mainstream, consumer markets are pushing down prices and driving up demand. Suppliers must cut cost-per-assembled-device to make the most of the opportunities available, since there is no single, meteoric sector to focus on. A successful response will depend partly on business processes, as the non-captive packaging sector hits its stride, and also on technological solutions aimed at driving up throughput. High-accuracy mass imaging is poised to become a next-generation process at wafer, substrate, and package levels. This should eliminate the disconnect between chip fabrication and packaging cost trends, and allow IC vendors and product developers, together, to turn the notion of wearable electronics into opportunities.

Bruce Hueners, Palomar Technologies

2007 will see a continued focus on emerging packaging technologies and development of equipment, required features, and process methods to interconnect these complex devices. These capabilities include custom, low-profile, fine-pitch interconnects via gold ball bumping, unique wire looping for high-frequency devices, and high-heat-transfer eutectic die attach for high-power LEDs and laser diodes. Palomar will enrich its ability to provide complete, precision assembly solutions, consisting of tools, process recipes, and support to customers worldwide. The ongoing trend of “value chain disintermediation” will increasingly shift our customer base to provide “best quality at lowest price” as packaging technologies mature. This creates unique challenges for equipment suppliers in this industry who provide the enabling tools to assemble today’s microelectronic products. As the customer base shifts from traditional OEMs to specialized device manufacturers, identifying and rapidly deploying cost-effective solutions anywhere in the world presents a daunting challenge.

Diane Frisk, Lloyd Doyle

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In the semiconductor market, we will hone the prototype solder-bump inspection products that were released in 2006. The IBIS products now cover production-scale solder bump inspection for IC substrates and a laboratory-scale version of the same equipment with in-depth analysis tools for solder bump metrology. These products will have field use in early 2007 and will be finely tuned tools by mid-year.

In a marketplace that moves so quickly, the challenge is to be ahead of the requirements. We know that the production sites that need this equipment will be on-line in 2007-2008 so we need to be ready for that requirement. Planning the next-generation systems, as well as scaling products to wafer-level inspection, will fill a large part of our R&D efforts.

Joseph S. Bubel, Hesse & Knipps

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In 2007, Hesse & Knipps will launch its next-generation ultrasonic flip chip bonder, the FLIPJET FJ520; and market our heavy wire bonder, the BONDJET BJ910; and high-speed automatic wedge-bonder, BONDJET BJ820. Customers recognize the value in challenging wedge-bonding applications. Hesse & Knipps expects strong growth in 2007, and supporting this growth is our biggest challenge. We have begun to increase manpower and make infrastructure improvements. In the past year, the company expanded production-floor capacity in Germany; in the Americas we have added several technical sales and applications experts to our staff. We are currently developing systems to improve internal communication and customer relationships.

Mike Vinson, Avo Photonics

Avo Photonics will continue the growth we have seen in our first two years. Investment in new technology continues at a brisk pace, driving the need for innovative package design and prototyping services. On-shore production has increased significantly.

We expect to see some market softening in the first half of the year; however, that should have a minimal impact on the smaller, cutting-edge technology companies. Our challenges won’t be changing a great deal, but expanding significantly. Price pressures from overseas will continue to be a minor influence but business will remain strong.

Patrick Trippel, Henkel

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Today’s semiconductor packaging industry is facing some of its greatest challenges to date. Shrinking package footprints combined with increasing package functionality have given rise to innovative package design and assembly techniques that will deliver the performance demanded by consumers. The true test, however, is being able to manufacture these devices cost-effectively and at a price/performance ratio that is in line with end-user expectations. Further technology advancments and cost-reducing materials developments are in process and, suffice it to say, the next 18 months will be very interesting indeed.

Rick Short, Indium Corp.

The demand for consumer electronics continues to grow. The demands on electronics packaging continue to challenge our customers. Indium Corporation is staying true to our customers’ needs and keeping our focus on finished goods reliability. Our efforts will add value at the packaging level, including a strong emphasis on SACX, STIM, PoP, and Low-k compliancy. Our goal is to continue adding value by enhancing our customers’ finished goods reliability.

Bob Black, Juki Corp.

Juki expects a record growth year in 2007. Our 2070 and 2080 machines will begin production shipments in November and should add volume throughout next year. Several more systems will be introduced for a wider customer base. After celebrating our 15,000th machine shipment in March 2006 and our 16,000th that July, we are on track to ship our 20,000th machine before year-end 2007. We work in a competitive business, so success is never easy. It has to be earned. Juki is based on high quality standards and customer satisfaction through reliable placement systems.

Simon Leow, ICON Technologies

2007 is going be a really busy year for ICON. With the launch of our entry-level printer, the i6, and the addition of our full-featured i8+, we now have a full product portfolio to offer EMS manufacturers and support engineers. Our biggest challenge going forward is convincing international customers of the quality and value they can achieve using Chinese-manufactured printers.

Gary Helmers, Creative Automation Co.

Creative Automation continues to refine nano-volume dispensing capability. We are focusing on volumes of 0.00025 to 0.00400 ml (0.25 to 4 nl). This translates to dots of 0.100 to 0.250 mm. The real challenge is keeping up with the demand for consistent nano-volume dispensing. Part of this is the constant process of educating end-users regarding the factors that contribute to accurate dispensing in the nanoliter range. Particle size, viscosity, all of the characteristics of the fluid material, and the substrate itself are factors in selecting the ultimate dispensing solution.

Martin Ziehbrunner, ESSEMTEC USA LLC

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In 2007, ESSEMTEC will introduce machines for low-precision die-bonding applications, jet-valve dispensing systems for dam and underfill applications or special dispensing applications, as well as special sorting and tray-handling platforms.

Based on over 3,000 installed machines worldwide, we know that the machine platforms are proven. The challenge for us now is to take these proven platforms and develop standard systems for the packaging market. With our worldwide sales and service network, we will be able to support customers on a global basis.

Neil O’Brien, Finetech USA

In early 2007, Finetech will introduce a new platform bonder that will offer automatic vision alignment with sub-micron placement accuracy and the ability to accommodate larger-sized substrates. This system was developed based on the current needs of our customers, particularly for optoelectronics component placement, such as laser bars, laser diodes, etc. Rework of the latest advanced package, PoP, will present some of the greatest rework challenges yet. The PoP’s compact size and extremely tight component proximity make it difficult to rework without disturbing the many adjacent devices. Finetech’s tooling designs and thermal management will continue to evolve in 2007 to meet these new packaging challenges.

Tom Forsythe, Kyzen Corp.

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Flip chip is happening in 2007. These high-reliability devices are entering the market in volume, and the advanced materials Kyzen has developed over the past 5 years are products of choice around the world. The growth phase has already begun, and is likely to continue aggressively next year. New solder materials will require continued high levels of product development, but more importantly, significant new product introductions are expected throughout what should be an exciting year. Our global infrastructure will continue to expand as we keep pace with our substantial growth rates. New test and evaluation tools will be required, along with the staff to operate them.

Tony Harker, iSLI

The development of iSLI’s Software Hub will allow young companies free access to EDA software. Our iDesign program will increase the commercial exploitation of integrated systems based upon hybrid MEMS and control electronics. Recruiting even more UK, domestic, and international graduates onto iSLI’s core masters and doctoral educational programs will be important in 2007, as well as conducting further research on electronics technologies capable of making modern devices more power-efficient and eco-friendly, in response to the global environmental challenge.

John Isaac, Mentor Graphics Corp.

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Our systems design customers are under increased pressures and complexities in markets where rapidly advancing technology is compounded by enterprise globalization, consolidation, outsourcing of design and manufacturing, and emerging powers like China. Mentor Graphics is continuing to invest heavily in PCB systems design-tool R&D.

We see a combination of challenges as we supply our customers with design solutions. We have to stay ahead of technology, such as HDI/micro-via and direct chip attach. An infrastructure challenge comes from the globalization of our major customers, supporting product design by teams that may be dispersed around the world. This requires IP creation and management along with simultaneous and multi-disciplined design collaboration.

Helmut Rutterschmidt, Datacon Technology GmbH

In our estimate, the general markets for back-end equipment will weaken next year compared to 2006. Yet, we expect to achieve significant growth. Our position in the volume segments of SiP, flip chip, and RFID will expand our Asia-Pacific business. Last year, the company derived more than half of our sales in the Far East. In the first six months of 2006 our 2200 evo exceeded expectations; customer orders and options are showing no downshifting in this market segment. In a slowing market, like in 2007, the Besi Group will continue to perform.

Roland Heitmann, Unovis Solutions

Six months after our formation, the team is energized by the market. Our customers have embraced our service offering; membership to our research consortium is stronger than ever; we are enabling high-speed SiP assembly with feeding, process, and assembly solutions; we are delivering automated solutions with flexible platforms. We are engaging with our customers at all stages of the product cycle on a worldwide basis, and opening channels to align our structure to meet needs. Our goal is to deliver our message to as many customers as possible in 2007. Unovis was established with focus and growth in mind. In 2007, challenges will be outwardly focused and will revolve around optimizing channels of engagement in semiconductor, medical, and automotive assembly.

Jon Dupree, Feinfocus/Comet North America

For 2007, FEINFOCUS μCT-FOX and COUGAR-VXP series of 2-/3-D X-ray inspection systems have been enhanced by combining high-resolution 2-D X-ray technology and 3-D computer tomography (CT) with HDX-ray technology. We can now achieve detailed inspection and analysis of complex electronic devices in 3-D. Both systems are suited for inspection of applications requiring high magnifications, such as MEMS/MOEMS, semiconductor packages, high-density interconnects, and hybrids.

Manufacturers of complex electrical and electro-mechanical devices are demanding high-resolution inspection techniques to ensure product reliability. We provide a modular hardware- and software-based CT interface to accommodate a variety of imaging chains, and automatic configuration of the detector to provide optimal CT resolution.

J. Stan Erickson, DuPont Semiconductor Packaging & Circuit Materials

In 2007, DuPont is putting science to work in strategic market segments like advanced lithography, embedded passives, wafer-level packaging, and build-up multilayers. We will also accelerate investment in facilities and resources in Asia. Growing I/O counts will drive demand for finer resolution, and low-k dielectrics in chips will require lower CTE in packaging materials. These challenges are well suited to DuPont’s capabilities and broad technology base. The REACH requirement in Europe will be a challenge for the electronic materials industry in general. The semiconductor growth forecast flattens; however, we expect somewhat less impact to the advanced nodes.

Dick Post, NEXX Systems

In 2007, the industry will benefit from the Stratus electroplating tool for 300-mm wafer processing. Cost-effective UBM for lead-free solder deposited in the Nimbus is a high priority for the growing volume of “green” products. We will extend our product line, bringing to market additional processing equipment designed specifically for advanced packaging. New packaging processes, such as copper-pillar bumps and through-silicon vias, are being developed to increase device performance. The challenge will be to develop these processes such that the cost-per-wafer is justified by the performance advantage offered.

Mike O’Reilly, Optomec

Optomec is up-scaling throughput capability of our M3D printable electronic solutions by working in collaboration with material suppliers, customers, and R&D partners. Meeting print requirements for smaller footprint electronic products drives new technologies. Delivering solutions for diverse market needs will be a challenging task. Optomec will introduce an array of deposition solutions targeted at depositing electrically conductive materials at trace sizes below 10 µm.

David Haynes, Surface Technology Systems plc

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We expect a continued commercialization of MEMS and other emerging technologies. Our deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) technology is used in device fabrication and increasingly in packaging at chip scale or wafer level. In parallel, STS expects to see a continued growth in the use of DRIE technology in the field of IC packaging. Because of the changing nature of applications in which DRIE technology is being deployed, delivering continued improvements in productivity will be essential in 2007, requiring improved cost-per-wafer performance, system reliability and operational capability, and customer support. Flexible and adaptable solutions for shorter product life-cycles and time-to-market on consumer-based applications will be essential.

Han Park, NEC Electronics America

In late 2006, a new generation of gaming consoles was released; manufacturers expect more than 10 million units to be distributed in 2007. These volumes are not limited to the gaming market. Many high-volume electronics markets rely on advanced system LSIs. As a supplier, NEC Electronics supports leading-edge technologies. For example, the company’s 65-nm products are in volume production now and 55-nm products will enter production in 2007.

Managing electrical and thermal performance is a key challenge. In the packaging area, low thermal resistance PBGA and FCBGA packages are the best choice for LSI. To help chip designers manage the package design flow, we developed a process called total design system. In 2007, NEC Electronics plans to introduce similar design and evaluation tools for SiPs.

Steve Chen, Tessera

In advanced packaging and interconnect, Tessera is innovating breakthroughs in chip-scale and 3-D packaging for higher interconnect density, finer pitch, lower profile, and improved electrical performance for a variety of device types. DRAM and consumer optics are also key focus areas for Tessera. DDR3 will be packaged in Tessera technology, providing an infrastructure for seamless transition at low cost. Tessera has several development efforts underway as the industry drives toward lower-profile and reduced-cost optical components for cameras.

Key industry challenges for 2007 surround DDR4 because specifications have yet to be defined, and a variety of technology options are under consideration. Meeting performance requirements with minimal infrastructure changes and at the lowest cost is an obvious challenge. Through the combination of our portfolio and development efforts, we believe Tessera’s technology will remain an economical means of packaging next-generation DRAM.AP