Word on the street is, if 3D is serving a niche market, it’s going to be a big niche!  At least that was what Subramanian Iyer reported back from the 3D Panel he moderated on December 6 during IEDM 2011. The panel’s ultimate goal was to address the overall theme “Is 3 Dimensional Integration at Best a Niche Play?”.  Organizers tested a new format, leaving the powerpoint slides at home, and getting right to the discussion.  Iyer declared it to be a great success, with attendees numbering in the neighborhood of 400, lots of lively discussion among the panelists and involvement from audience.

3D Applications
Under the main topic, Iyer said the panelists were divided into three groups to address sub-topics. The opinions stated were the panelists own, and not representative of their company roadmaps.  Offering the applications perspective were Paul Franzon, of North Carolina State; Vivek De, of Intel, and Siyoung Choi, from Samsung.  According to Iyer, Franzon addressed the advantages 3D stacking will bring to chip-to-chip communications, which is taking too much energy in its current 2D configuration. Stacking will alleviate this problem.  De’s opinion was that there are 2 definitive applications for 3D integration; high bandwidth memory for next-generation smart appliances, and high-end high bandwidth memory.  Choi predicted that within 3 years, we’ll see cell phones with 3D devices inside them.  Bottom line: there are applications with needs that only 3D can address. Those will be the early adopters while 2D fills the needs where it can.

3D Business Model
The second set of panelists — Jan Vardaman of TechSearch International, John Lau of ITRI, and Rich Rice of ASE — addressed the 3D business model topic, and Iyer reported a fair amount of controversy, and “feisty” responses from both Vardaman and Lau (I can only imagine, if it was like this year’s IWLPC! man, I wish I could have been there!)

Vardaman’s position was that like with flip chip and multi-chip modules; it would be the IDMS that drive this train. She predicted Samsung would be the first and others will follow.  Lau put his money firmly on the foundries to provide the end-to-end solution of chips on TSV (though-silicon via) passive interposer wafer with very fine line width and spacing RDLs (redistribution layers) on organic substrate for high-performance and high-density products. Rice’s opinion was that while OSATS will pick up the low-end interposer manufacturing business, the investment required for high-end interposers was best left to the foundries and IDMs rather than the OSATs.

At the end of the day, these panelists concluded that IDMS will lead the charge; real, high-end 3D integration will be handled by the foundries and IDMs, and low-end interposers will be in the capable hands of the OSATS.  “I believe the panel came to the right conclusion,” noted Iyer.

3D Technology Challenges
The final group reported on remaining 3D technology challenges, and included Sitaram Arkalgud of Sematech, and John Lau (who pulled double duty). It was their collective opinion that while there are remaining challenges, none of them are show stoppers. The greatest challenges are related to cost, known-good dies, yields, thermal and thermoelectric management, which will require formidable solutions. However, neither of these researchers thought this would stop early adopters. “TSV technology is here to stay, and just like the flip chip technology, it will be with us for a very long time!” noted Lau.

Conclusions
According to Iyer, Sesh Ramaswami from Applied Materials, spoke up from the audience to remark that the panel was being too hard on 3D, pointing out that 3D is already here – why are we even debating this?  But regardless, Iyer explained that there is still no black or white answer.  “There are some specific applications that will require 3D,” he noted.  “They could be called niche markets – but they are pretty big niches. It appears that this business could sustain itself, and will go.”

So there you have it. 3D integration – GAME ON!   ~ F.v.T

This week I’m headed to 3D ASIP in Burlingame – can’t wait to take the industry temperature there. I suspect spirits will be high! Stay tuned…

Francoise von Trapp

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

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