Once again, I can’t let my follow-up coverage of SEMICON West go by without reporting on my annual briefing with Manish Ranjan, of Ultratech. This year I even got a gift! It was little rubber-like replica of the company’s latest lithography tool that encased a 4G flash drive. (Those little suckers just keep getting smaller, denser, and cheaper, don’t they? This Staples commercial advertised 4G flash drive for $4.99)
This of course epitomizes the ongoing challenge faced by the semiconductor industry. Is there any other market where functionality improvements coincide with lower prices? But I digress….
Naturally, as Ultratech decided to focus their lithography steppers to serve the Advanced Packaging market, our discussion tends to focus on where that market has headed. It was a solid roll of the dice for them, because more and more, Advanced Packaging is proving it is a value add proposition.
Manish explained that historically, packaging was considered a cost function, and therefore was mainly outsourced by major manufacturers. But that’s all changing with the existence of 3D integration. ST Microelectronics began to bring packaging in-house, recognizing advanced 3D packaging as having strategic value. They saw the advantage of integration and co-design. Manish says 3D is driving a shift back to vertical integration, as evidenced by activities at various IDMs and Foundries.
2011 is no exception. Manish reports that it has been a ‘phenomenal year’ for the AP market. This is good news for Ultratech and other companies targeting the AP markets such as NEXX Systems, EV Group, SPTS, and SUSS Microtech. Its great timing for new product introductions, and for Ultratech, Manish predicts the best year ever.
Why? The rapid adoption of copper pillar bumping for memory stacking for one. According to Manish, technology roadmaps for major manufacturers have copper pillar kicking in at 65nm nodes at Intel, and 28nm at TSMC. Additionally he says both 3D TSV memory on memory for mobile DRAM in cell phones and wide I/O bus DRAM on logic solutions are already available in limited capacity and are gearing up for volume production. He expects NAND flash will lead the transition due to density requirements, and Toshiba is using TSVs for solid state disk drives. All this bodes well for equipment manufacturers serving the middle- and back-end-of-line (BEOL) process markets. — F.v.T.