Ok, maybe I should say Gartner’s crystal ball, but whenever Jim Walker delivers a presentation based on Gartner research, he always interjects his own personal opinion, which in this industry, is a very brave thing to do. I, for one, appreciate that personal touch because if I’m lucky enough to be in the room, I get some nuggets of information that you can’t get just by reviewing the presentation. In any case, at the annual MEPTEC September Forecast Luncheon that took place yesterday here in Mesa, AZ, Walker offered insight on the global economy, how the semiconductor industry has recovered and boomed in the aftermath, and what we can expect next.

Some highlights from the talk: Walker noted that China, not the US, had become the leader in consumer electronic consumption as its middle class continues to grow, and this is significant indicator that the global markets are changing for good. Overall, he says industry revenue is still poised to hit record highs in 2010 reaching 31.5% growth driven by the PC, cell phone and LED markets, although he doesn’t rule out a downturn scenario. There’s strong growth across the board in capital spending, with mostly foundries spending on capacity buys, but packaging houses are leading with technology buys.

For the first time ever, two packaging companies, ASE and SPIL, made Gartner’s top 20 list in capital spending. “It’s a milestone, in my opinion, that the packaging guys are starting to spend on capex.” said Walker, saying that it’s due largely to the transition from gold to copper wire bonding. Opportunities such as LED packaging, solar, wafer-level packaging, and yes, 3D packaging and TSVs are also contributing to this. He said that ASE moved into the number one spot past SPIL this year, in his opinion because they were aggressive in spending on copper wire bonders, where as SPIL did not. With the rapid transition to copper due to the increase cost of gold, ASE’s strategy has worked for them.

“The packaging value of the industry is going up because we are the enabler of Moore’s Law,” noted Walker. “Most of the integration in a cell phone, because time-to-market is so short, is via packaging.” Front-end equipment suppliers are finding a market in the back-end with the increase in WLP and TSV. However he doesn’t see that the TSV market has driven equipment buys for foundries like TSMC or Elpida, regardless of their announcements of outfitting 300mm TSV lines. (This aligns with what Kevin Crofton, executive VP of SPTS told me when I visited the company in July. The foundries will use legacy tools and traditional processes to do via-first TSVs as long as they can.)

“Elpida announced they’d begin production on TSV in June 2010, but I still haven’t seen anything on that yet.” He said, adding that it will be the middle of next year before we see any TSV production, and that will be in pilot lines only. Walker expects there won’t be any measurable volume of TSV devices for several years.

Like I said, these are just the highlights, and the parts that I thought would resonate with 3D InCites readers. You can read my whole coverage in the next issue of Chip Scale Review, when it comes out at the end of the month. Until next time…. F.v.T

Francoise von Trapp

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

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