“It may prove to be more economical to build large systems out of smaller functions, which are separately packaged and interconnected. The availability of large functions, combined with functional design and construction, should allow the manufacturer of large systems to design and construct a considerable variety of equipment both rapidly and economically.”

G. Moore, “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits”, Electronics, vol. 38, no. 8, 1965.

The 30th annual installment of the SEMI Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference  (SEMI ASMC 2019) went live in Saratoga Springs, NY, the week of May 6, 2019, starting with the Women in Semiconductors program Monday afternoon May 6, and extending through Thursday, May 9 with a closing keynote by Robert Maire of Semiconductor Advisors LLC.

SEMI Women in Semiconductors Event

Women in Semiconductors, which drew a record number of attendees in 2019, its third year, is covered in two excellent pieces already available online, one by Amy Leong, FormFactor, Inc., who was a WiS panelist (see “Women in Semiconductors: A Rising Tide Will Lift All Boats”), and a second one by the journalist David Lammers, writing for the GLOBALFOUNDRIES Foundry Files blog (see “To Climb the Ranks, Women Engineers Need ‘A Little Push.’”)

The Main Event: SEMI ASMC 2019

SEMI ASMC 2019, no slouch itself, drew at-capacity attendance, with a mix of ~50% first-timers and ~50% old-hands present for three exceptionally good keynote presentations, fifteen sessions devoted to papers by device makers, equipment and materials suppliers, and academics, on the practical application of advanced semiconductor manufacturing strategies and methodologies, along with a very well-received tutorial (“System Level Heterogeneous Integration Will Drive Fundamental Change in Manufacturing”), and an engaging panel discussion on “Time to Yield vs. Time to Productivity: What Matters Most in the Age of More than Moore?”

The Reinvention of the Automobile

Who knew, listening to ASMC 2019 opening keynote speaker Robert Czetina, Vice President, Automotive Development Center, Infineon Technologies Austria AG, that three weeks after his talk on “Megatrends Shaping the Automotive Market – Driven by Innovative Semiconductors,” Infineon would be vaulting itself from the #2 position in the automotive chip supplier ranking to #1? (“Infineon to Acquire Cypress for $10B … With the latest move, Infineon is expected to cement its hold on the automotive chip segment. The company said the transaction will position it as the No. 1 supplier to the segment.” Source: EETimes.)

What I absorbed at the time from Robert’s talk about automotive electronics is that “We will soon witness the reinvention of the automobile” (Dieter Zetsche, CEO Daimler), something coming for a variety of reasons, including the need to drive automotive-produced CO2 emissions lower than they are today, drive automotive-associated deaths from their present level to zero deaths by 2050, and drive the transition from human control to machine control of the family automobile to achieve Hands Off – Mind Off driving. (Safe Hands Off – Mind Off driving that is. Too much HO – MO driving already as it is today, just without that machine control feature being handy.)

Creating the 5G Enabled World

In the second keynote talk at ASMC 2019, Christine Dunbar, Vice President, US Sales, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, presented a very upbeat picture of the future 5G-enabled world we are about to create. Of most interest to me during Christine’s talk was her reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program, which is a 17 point plan to end poverty, halt climate change, and fight injustice and inequality, all by 2030. In other words, soon.

According to Christine / GLOBALFOUNDRIES, this sustainable development transformation will ride on 5G system capabilities enabled by a variety of semiconductor devices we are fabricating now and will be manufactured in future, at foundries such as GF. The future is better than you think! (Thank you, Peter Diamandis, for your vision of Abundance, which is much akin to the UN SDG effort, and the efforts by the TSensors Initiative, also complementary to everything here.)

Positioning is Everything

Robert Maire, Semiconductor Advisors, is a strong closer, and his final-day keynote has been an ASMC favorite going on years now. In his talk on “Positioning is Everything,” Robert proposed that, regarding the current state of the semiconductor economy, “We are likely at or near the bottom of an extended down cycle which started in the middle of 2018 and is not likely to end before the end of 2019.” It’s a “canoe shaped- flattish, murky bottom,” and the next up cycle may not be as strong as the cycle we just enjoyed, as we’ve already played our current strong capital investment cards in memory, multi-patterning, mobile, AI, cryptocurrency mining, etc. (The future does seem bright for EUV lithography, but that’s only one exposure tool supplier and three or so customers, so quite a closed ecosystem.)

What about opportunities for us in the semiconductor device fabrication world going forward? There’s China, which Robert sees as both a huge risk and a huge opportunity at the same time –China is today’s fastest-growing chip fabrication market, but it’s a double-edged sword, meaning the “P” in your MBA 101 PEST analysis looms larger than any of the E-S-T factors. (This has happened before with China and silicon – note how the solar photovoltaic cell industry evolved into its present state.)

In other words, success in China may be out of our industry’s control, particularly given the current environment in Washington.

A Sexy Back-end?

Bright spots per Robert? One notable recent winner is the EUV lithography transition at 7nm and beyond – lithography wins, even as Dep & Etch loses.

And … here it comes … advanced packaging is an up-and-comer. Advanced packaging (including SiP and heterogeneous integration) drives “More than Moore.” We’re circling back to Gordon Moore’s original concept from more than 50 years ago that “It may prove to be more economical to build large systems out of smaller functions, which are separately packaged and interconnected.”

That’s heterogeneous integration and, in Robert Maire’s words, as a result of the new investment opportunities advanced packaging engenders, “The back end becomes sexy.”

I’ll have more to say about that in Part 2 of my ASMC 2019 report.

From Wexford, PA, thanks for reading.


Paul Werbaneth

Paul Werbaneth is a long-time Contributing Editor at 3D InCites. Since entering the semiconductor industry…

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