2016 will be remembered as the year fan-out wafer level packaging (FOWLP) went mainstream, thanks to TSMC’s strategic move in the advanced packaging arena and especially its integrated fan-out (InFO) win inside the iPhone 7. Already in high-volume manufacturing (HVM), FOWLP volumes significantly increased in magnitude. Will this strong momentum continue over the next few years? I believe it will. A significant indicator of this is the recent acquisition of Nanium, one of the FOWLP pioneers, by Amkor Technologies, the industry’s No. 2 outsourced semiconductor assembly and test service provider. I’m convinced 2017 will not only be the year FOWLP continues to be pervasive but more broadly speaking, the year advanced wafer-level packaging takes off. Consequently, complete process control solutions that combine metrology and inspection will be recognized as a value-add.
The front-end sector of the semiconductor industry is accustomed to dealing with defectivity and has the yield improvement mindset built into its DNA. As foundries add advanced packaging processes like TSV, FOWLP, micro-bumping and wafer thinning to their portfolios, and with back-end players proposing wafer-level packaging solutions due to their increased understanding of process control’s benefits for end users, metrology and inspection solutions will evolve beyond being viewed as merely a necessary CapEx cost. At UnitySC, our primary focus is enabling process controls that directly drive better yield predictability and improved cost control in advanced packaging technologies. We believe this focus directly addresses today’s industry challenges.
Semiconductor industry consolidation has also been a growing trend over the past several years. UnitySC was a product of this trend, combining FOGALE nanotech Group’s acquired Altatech assets with the former FOGALE Semicon division. This allowed us to fill out our portfolio and provide a complete process control solution with not only metrology but full wafer inspection; including an all-around-and-through-the-wafer evaluation for volume manufacturing. While some are concerned that industry consolidation will mean fewer customers, we see it differently. The level of activity hasn’t dropped off at all; if anything, it’s increased and become more efficient. As current customers acquire potential customers, we are a medium-sized company that is gaining visibility in the industry, which is opening doors to new business.
Beginning with the January opening of our corporate headquarters in Grenoble, France, which gave us additional cleanroom space to develop, demonstrate and evaluate customer processes, UnitySC is off and running in 2017. We are ready to tackle the numerous business opportunities coming our way, driven by such trends as increased electronic content in automobiles, new camera and fingerprint sensor technologies for smartphones, 5G RF modules, connectivity solutions requiring a multitude of sensors for the internet of things and China’s aggressive plans for semiconductors, to name a few.
We know this will be a dynamic and busy year for us and our industry. We’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2017 unfolds. ~ T. Anderson