While I’m clearly a huge believer of leveraging the Internet for interactive communication (heck, 3D InCItes was founded on that) I have to admit that there’s still no substitute for human interaction. Attending yesterday’s MEPTEC Southwest Luncheon, featuring Mark Stromberg from Gartner Dataquest, offered more than just an update on the back-end markets, which will be officially released sometime next week, (we got a preview, and it’s looking good). The discussion and networking opportunities that followed offered a perspective from the trenches you can only get by physical presence.

Stromberg’s message was generally a positive one, although he cautioned that the recovery could present as a “soft W”, with another expected quarter of negative GDP. Overall, the industry is bouncing back better than previously expected. While last year we were constantly bombarded with downward forecast adjustments, this year’s corrections have been in the upward direction. In the SATS market, Gartner had originally forecasted an overall growth rate of -18% for 2009, Stromberg said it’s now going to be closer to -10% growth.

For back-end equipment, Q2 was better than reported, and Q3 will be “quite robust” for packaging and assembly. New technology buys (vs. capacity purchases) had a lot to do with this. Specifically noting TSV implementation and manufacturing, Stromberg predicted that by 2013, the equipment market would reach 1.2B, the materials market will hit $625M, and services will bring in another 2.2B. Just as 2009 was the year for TSV implementation in image sensors and MEMS, 2010 will be the same for 3D TSV stacking of memory, graphics and RF/communications; and 2011 will be the year for multicore processors, power management, and FPGAs.

Probably the most profound comment regarding the economic slump, its recovery, and overall affect on our industry came not from Stromberg, but from Fred Hamilton of Amkor, who remarked during the Q&A “we can’t go back to where we were, because where we were doesn’t exist anymore.” Indeed, as this industry matures and growth is moderated, we are unlikely to see the unprecedented leaps in capital spending inspired by the capacity buys of the industry’s infancy, and its efforts to keep up with consumer demands.

On another note, post-presentation networking connected me with John Hunt, director of engineering for ASE, who was able to answer my million-dollar question of the year – who’s doing post-fab processes for 3D IC stacking using TSVs? He reported that ASE is already doing it; and that they take the after the vias have been formed, from metallization through chip stacking. He also noted that in 3D WLP technologies, ASE is working with Infineon on the second generation of its fan-out package-on-package (PoP) configuration. Incidentally, two of these devices are on the bill-of-materials for two LG phones on the market.

The added (and quite unexpected) bonus of the day was the warm welcome and personal introduction extended to me by event moderator, Nick Leonardi, of Premier Semiconductor Services. Nick gave me a few minutes of floor time to introduce 3D InCites to the crowd. And while I hope to encourage everyone to become members of our online community, our intention is to enhance, rather than replace the information sharing organizations like MEPTEC bring to the industry. Like I said, there’s no substitute for human interaction. – F.v.T.

P.S. If you missed this event, you’ll have the opportunity to hear Jim Walker give a similar presentation September 10 in Sunnvale, CA.

Francoise von Trapp

They call me the “Queen of 3D” because I have been following the course of…

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