We currently have 14 separate discussions going on (with much more to come) across 3 forums addressing technology progress and limitations; supply chain issues; and standards development. As I suspected, most of the activity is happening around technology progress and limitations, because that seems to be where people have the most to say, and perhaps where most of the controversy still exists. I’m not going to attempt to report responses spanning all these discussions. Rather, I’ve decided to focus on some of the more provocative discussions. If you want to get the full story, you should really just register and join in.
In response to my question of why companies continue to invest in scaling solutions or wirebond if the desired results can be achieved more efficiently with TSV, Bob Patti boiled it down to the risk factor. Because 3D using TSV “requires new processes and new design paradigms to really reap the benefits, it scares people.” He reminded me that this is a very conservative industry, and since scaling is still possible, albeit becoming more difficult, it will continue to be invested in. “Most people now see 3D as an option and the question is more of when is 3D going to be easier and or cheaper, he noted.
Michael Fritze of DARPA added on to Bob’s statement saying that “people will continue to invest in classical scaling ‘until the wheels fall off the bus’ because this is perceived as a known risk path. Radically new architecture, circuit development or CAD tools are not required in this case. He added that as problems increase with classical scaling, people will be more willing to consider 3D IC. “ At the moment the fraction of $’s being invested in 3DIC vs. classical scaling is quite small. This will inevitably change.”
Fritze also supports the notion that 3D IC is a “potential means of making affordable “SOCs” thus enabling a whole new range of applications that are simply not economically viable today given the volumes required to justify a custom SOC design.” (You know, I’ve never met Michael, but I’m really starting to like this guy.)
Things also got a little heated around the EDA tool readiness issue. Patti answered head-on, citing progress his company has made with MicroMagic’s 3D Max for 3D editing and visualization for physical editing. For Tezzaron, the missing piece has existed in the back-end with verification, but he’s pretty confident that that will be solved to, also by Micro Magic.
Ric Borges, of Synposys, reports that EDA tools are ramping up right along with the rest of the supply chain, and believes the design community will be ready to support 3D IC as market adoption takes hold.
As many suggest market adoption is being held up by a lack of design tool readiness, I suggested that this is a chicken-and-egg situation, but Borges explained that this is an iterative process that during which companies develop capabilities to enable the initial designs and then refine and enhance these capabilities based on customer feedback. He says the first step has been establishing requirements and priorities that ultimately lead to development goals and roadmaps, and believes most new enhancements will be built as extensions of the existing tools and flows.
However, Michael Fritze stated that in his opinon, 3DIC EDA/CAD tools must come first for companies to “quantitatively evaluate the potential benefits of 3DIC technology to their applications and business needs. “ Therefore, he predicts that while the large CAD companies wait for market demand, “forward thinking (and adequately funded) startups will likely lead the key work in this area.” See what I mean by heated?
As I said, there’s more. But it wouldn’t be fair for those participating if I give everything away here, now would it? You should really jump in and follow. Next week, coverage continues from SEMICON West. Stay tuned!