In contrast to some of the gloomier predictions of the analysts, we think 2016 will be a growth year for our business. In packaging, we see a number of development projects moving into production this year, and a raft of makers adding capability to catch up with the early adopters. The major example will be the growth of fan-out wafer level packaging (FOWLP). After six years of being a niche activity for packaging small size die and high performance RF chips, FOWLP will move into the front line of semiconductor manufacturing as TSMC ramps it for the 2016 range of Apple iPads and iPhones. Other major IDMs and fabless companies will follow the lead, and put their own parts onto this high-density, low-cost platform. Squeezed by the emergence of FOWLP, 3D packaging using TSV will have a modest year, although I expect to see new announcements from makers of MEMS and PMIC devices using via-last TSV to reduce package area and gain a performance boost.
Another new technology gaining traction in 2016 is plasma dicing. For manufacturers of very high-volume, small parts, such as RFIDs and some PMICs, the ROI time for die shrink by design is becoming longer. Plasma dicing offers up to 80% more die per wafer by reducing the dicing lanes from ~80 to <20µm, because there is no concern over crack propagation. We expect to see the frontrunners go into production this year, and corresponding investments by others to catch-up. There will also be a ramp in development spend at more advanced fabs, seeking to use the low-damage nature of a plasma dicing process to reduce Si thickness and therefore package height.
Outside of packaging, there are many other reasons to feel optimistic about 2016. We expect to see plenty of activity in MEMS, as new piezoelectric based sensors are introduced. These devices work by sensing deflections of an Aluminium Nitride based beam or cantilever, and are more sensitive than the traditional capacitance MEMS, at a lower power consumption. PiezoMEMS will be a game changer in the MEMS industry, and will be an enabling part of the IoT revolution. RF devices will continue their record growth of previous years; for GaAs based power amplifiers, and BAW and SAW filters. Ubiquitous parts of a smartphone, these grow faster than phone shipments as more frequencies are added every year, and will also play a major role in the IoT. ~ D. Butler