My favorite people to talk to in the 3D space are those who work in R&D. There is an energy – an enthusiasm – that is contagious. These people are by nature problem solvers. I like that. You rarely hear them dwelling on economic woes. They are the idea people, and they are excited about what they do, and are eager to talk about it. They’re also not as secretive with their findings as IDMS, because getting the word out is crucial to their success. Mostly, what they do is where it all begins, and it’s always exciting to learn about something right from the beginning.
As it turns out, during this economic downturn it is the R&D entities that are thriving. Jerome Baron of Yole Developpment recently reported to me that R&D activity linked to 3D companies has reached “unprecedented levels”. He predicts that the semiconductor industry will come out of this recession by stimulating innovations they have “in their box”. Moreover, Baron says 3-D integration by mean of TSV interconnects or embedded wafer level packaging technologies will lead the way.
With all the optimism being expressed about 3D, and specifically 3D IC integration with TSVs, I’m always caught up short when I realize not everyone in the industry shares that enthusiasm. For example, during SEMI’s press conference, when Norm Armour, VP and general manager, Fab 2, Global Foundries talked about progress with Fab 2, calling it the “most advanced Fab in the world” and proclaiming that “We are turning this whole vision into a reality”, I was very surprised to discover that there are no plans to include a facility for post-fab processes for TSVs. I would have thought the most advanced Fab in the world would be equipped to handle the most progressive processes. I guess I’m biased, because I’m such a strong advocate for 3D integration, but still, it seemed like it would be the perfect opportunity.
My R&D friends aren’t surprised by this reluctance to adopt new technologies. They know this is a conservative industry, and it takes a lot of convincing to convert the masses. This is another thing I find to be paradoxical. One would think that an industry whose goal it is to bring the newest technologies and nifty devices to the world would be embrace change and innovation as quickly as they churn out next-generation cell phones. But the R&D community isn’t worried. Rather, they plan accordingly, establishing roadmaps and letting the enthusiasm take hold one step at a time, until some champion takes up the gauntlet and runs with it. After all, it only takes one success before everyone wants a piece of the action.