For several years now, Herb Reiter, eda2asic, and John Ferguson, Mentor Graphics, have been evangelizing about the necessity of assembly design kits (ADK), similar to the process design kits (PDKs) for chip designers, to help drive ecosystem capabilities for what is collectively now being called high density advanced packaging (HDAP), comprising 2.5D IC, 3D IC and high density fan-out wafer level packaging. Why? Because while the manufacturing infrastructure has been in place to ramp these technologies to production for some time, until HDAP technologies are designed into a device, barriers to entry for these technologies remain.
Earlier this month, coinciding with its launch of and end-to-end Xpedition High-Density Advanced Packaging flow, Mentor took the bull by the horns and launched a Global OSAT Alliance Program (OSAT stands for outsource semiconductor assembly and test) for the sole purpose of addressing this issue. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to speak with Mentor’s Keith Felton to get the details. Here’s what transpired.
The Back Story
Mentor has long believed in the importance of chip-package-PCB co-design. In fact, the Xpedition Package Integrator tool was developed to address this for multi-die packages like TSMCs chip-on-wafer-on-substrate (CoWoS), which Felton said has become popular for FPGA designs comprising ASICs surrounded by high bandwidth memory (HBM). He said Xpedition was aimed at traditional organic laminate packages integrating one or more low-density chips in a package.
However, as the industry turns to heterogeneous integration rather than relying on Moore’s Law to achieve system scaling, demands emerge for new technologies that involve multiple substrates and multiple devices; the common thread being the use of Si as a substrate material rather than organic substrates. Termed collectively as high-density advanced packages (HDAP), these packages have new technical challenges that require a different approach.
“We believe HDAP is not really serviced today because nobody has focused on it,” said Felton. “Designers have tried to use existing tools that weren’t really designed for HDAP and are having a hard time. We saw it as a great opportunity to fill a void.”
Why the Global Alliance?
As HDAP often involves stacking multiple die side by side on a substrate, there was a need to integrate 3D design and not just 2D. Also, Felton noted a greater need for accuracy and performance, and that designers must consider submicron features, “huge BGAs” and a vast number of I/Os, which put pressure on existing design tools. So a few weeks ago, the company launched a new HDAP design flow that adds new Xpedition Substrate Integrator and Xpedition Package Designer to the Xpedition Package Integrator. Herb Reiter covered the details here.
“We believe we have the richest tool in this space because we can go end to end,” said Felton, “But having a great design tool that nobody supports in manufacturing is pointless.” Thus, Mentor launched the Global Alliance to provide global support of the HDAP design process and provide ADKs to their customers.
Similar in concept to the Calibre Alliance Program Mentor launched for foundries, the Global OSAT Alliance is open to all OSATS, who will, free of charge, gain access to Mentor technology and expertise, so that they can create reference designs and ADKs for HDAP for their customers, thereby lowering the barrier to adoption for these types of designs. “We give them the tools they need, and we help build first design kits,” explained Felton. “This is a huge investment for Mentor, but it’s the only way to get the supply chain to the level of sophistication so that they can support the OEMS.”
Amkor Technology, Inc., with whom Felton says Mentor has a strong collaborative relationship, is the first OSAT to become an alliance partner for its SWIFT packaging technology. “We want everybody to join and will work with as many OSATS as we can get into the program,” said Felton. “The goal is to get OSATS to be at the same sophistication with HDAP designs as the foundries are for IC designs.”
As TSMC has entered into HDAP with its InFO package, do they count as an OSAT? Felton said Mentor originally worked with TSMC to develop a complete design kit. “With the alliance, the idea was to take what we learned with TSMC and formulate it into a repeatable process,” he explained.
With Mentor providing tools and guidance free of charge to the OSAT partners, how do they stand to benefit from the alliance? Felton explained that the fabless companies will have to purchase the mentor tools to make use of the OSAT design kits. By “funding the bottom of the funnel” they pull in users and generate revenue.
“To break the chicken and egg cycle, we needed to put our own skin in the game,” explained Felton. “We learned many years ago with Calibre, and that’s how we got everybody up and running.”
Folks, this is very, very big deal – one of those what-we’ve-all-been-waiting-for” moments. Congratulations to Mentor for taking this much-needed initiative. ~ F.v.T.