Last week (January 18 and 19, 2011), Leti lit up Grenoble, France with the inauguration of its 300mm 3D integration, christening the region as “The Grenoble Valley ecosystem for 3D Integration.” The two-day event brought together Leti’s 3D common lab partners, spanning the supply chain to include industry partners (ST Microelectronics and ST Ericsson), equipment manufacturers (SPTS, EV Group, S.E.T., Semitool, and Soitec), material suppliers (Brewer Science), and design and test houses (Docea Power, Atrenta, R3 Logic, and Presto Engineering.) Nicolas Sillon, Leti’s Lab Manager for 3D Integration filled me in on the celebration’s highlights.

When I visited Leti in Oct 2009, the 300mm line was just beginning to be outfitted with manufacturing tools; namely lithography and bonding tools (EVG). Since then, Sillon said, many tools have been added to the line including deep etch, oxide and metallization tools (SPTS), and debonding tool from EVG. The result is a complete manufacturing-grade line for the purpose of process development, ultimately producing 3D demonstrators and low volume production with the goal of transferring the technology to the industry, explained Sillon.

Sillon and I discussed Leti’s 3D journey over the past four or five years, since the institute initiated the “3D Toolbox” concept. “Now we have a lot of friends helping to develop the toolbox,” noted Sillon. “We started with technology partners, now we have four new common lab agreements covering design and design for test, so we are ready for full 3D integration including design.” As all of the companies have either locations in Grenoble or assignees at Leti, it seemed natural to dub the region as being the “ecosystem for 3D integration.”

According to Sillon, the most significant change in the industry’s perspective since Leti initiated its 3D Integration program is that people now believe in 3D; that 3D is possible, and that in fact some products cannot be manufactured without it. Xilinx stacked silicon integration technology was a major step forward to prove 3D exists. “We’ll succeed in our mission when business is done in 3D.” noted Sillon.

The plenary session of the event addressed the general vision n 3D from application, foundry, design, equipment and R&D. The main message, according to Sillon, is that everyone is aligned to move to 3D volume manufacturing in two years (late 2012, early 2013). “If we think about application, everyone has wide I/O DRAM as the target in mind.” He added. This, he says, is the “killer application”; the one that can’t avoid 3D. “People who didn’t want to do 3D at the beginning see that this can’t be done without it.”

A second significant take-away from last week’s presentations is the importance of partnership. Everyone will not advance to 3D alone. “Partnership is necessary, and we have lots of partners here in Grenoble,” said Sillon. So does that mean Grenoble could be the epicenter of 3D integration? “We’re working for that,” he said.

As this event came close on the heels of two industry events in December, IEDM and RTI 3D Architectures for System Integration, which many players in the 3D space used to make major industry announcements, I asked Sillon if any major announcements were made at this forum. “What is new, is that TSV in 300mm is available in Grenoble.” He said. A second announcement was the establishment of a common lab agreement with Japanese substrate supplier, SHINKO. The work, which will be part of Leti’s broader efforts in advanced silicon substrates, will focus on silicon interposers. Interposers are proving to be very critical in the 3D integration roadmap, and is one way to make new systems rather than via traditional scaling. Sillon says working with SHINKO will be very complementary to the existing partnerships.

So with all the bases covered, what challenges are yet to be addressed before 3D integration becomes an industrial reality? According to Sillon, the next challenge is to take mature processes to volume manufacturing and learn about reliability. 2011 will be the year of standardization. Sillon also predicted that this year will see the first wide I/O demonstrator. Will it be developed in Grenoble? If all goes according to plan.

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