Nick Richardson

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As we move into the final quarter of the year, October marks the annual gathering of Europe’s microelectronics industry at SEMICON Europa. This year’s show, which took place October 6-8, 2014, once again attracted the leading players from across the industry value chain, but with an added French twist of being hosted in the Alpine city of Grenoble for the very first time.

The new surroundings brought an infectious feeling of freshness and optimism to exhibitors and attendees seen during the first days of the show, with many happy to take a year’s sabbatical from the usual host city of Dresden. Speaking with SEMI’s Director of Member Relations Beat Mueller, the strategy behind the move reflects the growing importance of Grenoble “as a leading semiconductor R&D and manufacturing cluster,” with the event returning to Dresden in 2015.

Grenoble is also home to CEA-LetiGrenoble is synonymous with research institutes and many chose to exhibit this year including CEA-LETI, imec, and no fewer than seven arms of the Fraunhofer Institute.

One of my most interesting meetings took place with Antonio La Manna, imec’s 3D Program Manager, who discussed a number of key focus areas from his presentation 3D System Integration – Technology Choices and Challenges. The presentation lays out imec’s detailed 3D application roadmap, forecasting the evolution of 3D ICs up to 2018.

SEMICON Europa

3D Integration session at SEMICON Europa 2014.

A significant takeaway from this was the reaffirmation of the co-existence of 2.5D and 3D ICs, with La Manna identifying distinct advantages to both vertical and lateral interconnects. The presentation also explored the growing significance of the Internet of Things (IoT) as a current and future 3D IC driver, and how the need to provide more, faster data could accelerate the need for 3D IC, as well as important reductions in process costs.

As was to be expected, the economics of 3D was a theme much discussed throughout the show, with many companies that are not yet active in 3D IC still identifying costs as the primary barrier to entering the market. During the well-attended 3D Integration conference session on Wednesday, many audience questions centered upon lower costs-of-ownership (CoO).

The FOGALE TMAP Dual 3D 3OO A

The FOGALE TMAP Dual 3D 3OO A

Other standouts from the exhibition floor included French metrology solutions provider FOGALE Nanotech, which displayed its TSV process control machine TMAP Dual 3D 300A. Gueneal Ribette, Sales and Marketing Director, Fogale, said that 2014 has marked a watershed year for FOGALE with the company taking several orders for the tool. With the TMAP offering various technologies across its multi-sensor heads, the company has labeled it the “Swiss Army knife” of metrology and inspection.

I also paid a visit to the Entegris booth to talk about the launch of the company’s 150mm SmartStack product, which features an improved design to ensure maximum protection during wafer shipping, storage, and transportation, and can accommodate up to 25 wafers per canister. Doug Moser, Product Manager, and Jorgen Lundgren, Senior Applications Engineer, explained that valuable customer feedback from the original 200mm SmartStack contributed to improvements in the 150mm products. Entegris also plans to launch its 300mm SmartStack in Q1 next year.

SEMIEuropa7Elsewhere on the exhibit floor, STmicroelectronics boasted the busiest of show booths due to a vast array of products on display that featured its MEMS sensors from applications such as mobile, portable, gaming, consumer, automotive, sport and health care. Whilst many didn’t fall into the realm of 3D ICs, their stand was an excellent example of how to create interest at an industry trade show, with the booth attracting large crowds throughout the first two days. I’d particularly recommend further reading on their time-of-flight (ToF) sensors and their Ultra HD Cannes product line.

Look for further insights from SEMICON Europa next week. ~ Nick