2013 Predictions for 3D ICs as told by Everyone – Part 1

2013 Predictions for 3D ICs as told by Everyone – Part 1

It’s that time of year again when various electronics trade publications invite industry executives to peer into their crystal balls and make their predictions for the coming year. I’ve been perusing through everything from overall industry forecasts by market analysts to suppliers eager to promote their core competencies for 3D IC manufacturing. Here are some that especially caught my attention this week.

I have to say I felt pretty smug when I read Rick Merrit’s post Fabless companies out-performed IDMs in 2012, in which he cites market analyst, Bill McClean, of IC Insights, who reported that fabless companies have been consistently outperforming IDMs since 1999, with the exception of 2010, and contrary to what Intel’s Mark Bohr would like people to think, it’s more likely that the IDM model will collapse as more companies are adopting a fabless and fablite model (27% in 2012, essentially doubled in the past 10 years.) Additionally, in a contributed post on Solid State Technology’s website, McClean predicted that 2013 will mark the beginning of the next IC Industry upturn, which he says generally correlates with overall GDP growth. He expects that to be to be particularly true this year. “Using a worldwide GDP forecast of 3.2%, the most likely range for worldwide IC market growth in 2013 is 3-7%,” writes McClean.

Mark Thirsk, Managing Partner, Linx Consulting LLC generally agrees with the co-relation, although he cautions that relying on it to forecast future trends is not straightforward and requires careful correction. In his SST contribution, he breaks down Si growth areas into device segments and technology nodes. Specific to 3D integration technologies, he shares his observation that “the adoption of 3D packaging technologies such as through silicon vias” is being driven by the fact that “broad introduction of finFETS , new storage cells and 3D memory technologies are still several years away.” Is he implying that 3D packaging and TSVs are merely a stopgap until other 3D processes are commercialized? If so, that’s one I haven’t heard before.

While Semico Research also forecasts healthy revenue growth, the market research firm notes that growth will not likely be in the capital equipment market. Adrienne Downey, Director of Technology Research, Semico Research reports here  that the company predicts capex to remain flat for 2013, unless it picks up momentum from some key construction plans that she outlines here.

Will 2013 be the year true 3D technology begins? That is the opinion of Paul Lindner, Executive Technology Director, EV Group. who talks about technology advancements in MEMS and 3D ICs. He says advancements in lower cost, high volume MEMS and 3D semiconductor manufacturing processes are enabling the infrastructure for “The Internet of Things”. EV Group has been working tirelessly to address some remaining hurdles, particularly with regards to thin wafer handling. Stress management and yield management is the name of the game, noted Thorsten Matthias recently in his 3D ASIP presentation. Incidentally, On Wed. January 9, 2013 Sandra Winkler will be giving a talk on the Internet of Things and how it is being enabled by 3D packaging technologies at the MEPTEC Holiday Luncheon.

If 2013 is the Year of the Diamond, as Mario M. Pelella, VP of Engineering, sp3 Diamond Technologies predicts, how will that affect 3D IC manufacturing? According to him, 3D ICs will benefit from development of a silicon-on-diamond (SOD) substrate platform that mitigates the thermal impact of increased power densities and suppresses local hot spots. Bob Patti, CTO of Tezzaron also talked about using diamond cooling technologies for heat removal from TSV stacks in his presentation at 3D ASIP, and while he didn’t mention Sp3 by name, maybe there’s some connection here? In any case, it would be great to see progress in the thermal management area for 3D ICs.

I suspect there will be more 2013 viewpoints popping up over the next few weeks, so I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for curation oportunities to bring you more of what people are predictiing in the 3D IC space for 2013.  ~ F.v.T.