A Little Disruption can be Good for You!

Two weeks ago, wearing my Chip Scale Review Sr. technical editor hat, I attended (along with 11 other journalists) an exclusive press conference launching a new electronic interconnect company, Deca Technologies, which claims to have developed disruptive manufacturing processes based on its sister company, SunPower’s, solar cell wafer processes, rather than traditional semiconductor manufacturing processes, that reportedly result in a drastic reduction in cycle time and cost, and offers unprecedented design-to-product flexibility.

The company’s first products are fan-in wafer-level chip scale packages, and what’s on the drawing board next could be very exciting for 3D technologies.  According to the company’s CEO Tim Olson, the company is working to develop silicon substrates at a much reduced cost of ownership (CoO), which could in turn, drastically reduce the CoO for manufacturing TSV interposers, thereby opening the door to HVM for 2.5D and 3D interposer technologies.

To me, the consummate cheering section for market adoption of 3D integration, this is nothing but good news. I’m excited and want to see them succeed. I have the same reaction every time an enthusiastic start-up tells me about their disruptive technologies that they claim will change the way we do things and open the door further for HVM of 3D integration technologies. (Alchimer and Replisaurus come to mind). But not everyone shares my enthusiasm, because if any of these companies who challenge the status quo and legacy processes succeed in their efforts, other companies will be left eating their dust.

The industry is already up in arms about Deca. I’ve had a few calls/emails from industry executives wanting to pick my brain about what I know about this company’s “revolutionary” processes. Is it all smoke and mirrors? How can they make these claims but be unwilling to share supporting data?  Why all the secrets?  Their immediate reaction is to be suspicious. There’s no way they came up with something that we haven’t already thought of and decided against; after all we’ve been doing this for a long time! I’ve also heard criticism that a company so cloaked in secrecy won’t make it out of the gate in an industry that relies on close collaboration and industry partnerships to succeed. (Then again, what about Intel and Apple – how many trade secrets are they willing to share?) And I think, here we go again! Why is it always an uphill battle for industry innovators, just because they might have had a better idea?

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I just read Zvi Or-Bach’s latest blog post, “Is Monolithic 3D IC a Disruptive Technology for the Semiconductor Industry?!” in which he questions why traditional scaling is still “the prevailing direction and course of the industry” despite the fact that it’s clearly a more costly approach for with less technology benefits than 3D IC would be. I have asked myself, and others, the same question on many occasions.The sad truth is this: if the disruptive technology threatens the bottom line of the leading manufacturers and vendors, they will try to squelch it as long as possible, progress be damned! In my opinion, this rates right up there with the evolutionary vs. revolutionary debate for 3D integration. How about a different approach?  Let’s shake up the status quo and rise to the challenge! A little disruption might just be good for business.  ~ F.v.T.