The IPC Advanced Packaging Symposium: “Building the IC Substrate and Package Assembly Ecosystem” was held in Washington, DC in October. Being the IPC, we could and should expect the focus to be on high-density laminates (HDI) and high-density build-up substrates (HDBU). Based on the 2021 IPC report “North American Advanced Packaging Ecosystem Gap Assessment: Critical Systems, Capability, Capacity Analysis and Recommendations” a year ago, one might have expected this meeting to be also focused on US reshoring. The program could have used more Asian HDI and build-up substrate producers to better exemplify state-of-the-art (SOTA) …it could have used more of that.

The 140 attendees from 90+ companies/institutions listened to 27 speakers offer their thoughts on the IC-substrate and package assembly ecosystem. While some of the speakers like Samsung Electro Mechanics and AT&S were present to give a global view, it was certainly noticeable that most of the major players like Daeduck, Fujitsu Int, Ibiden, Kinsus, NanYa, Shinko, Topan printing, Kyocera and Unimicron were absent both from the speaker list and the attendance list. The attendance list was loaded with attendees from the US Defense Industrial Base (DIB), government agencies, and the usual equipment and materials suppliers looking for customers.

I, for one—after reviewing the presentations of TTM (the only US PCB supplier who shows up on the top 25 global list) and substrate wannabees Calumet and Greensource — was not left feeling that they were about to catch up with advanced substrate capabilities in Asia anytime soon.

IPC on US Substrate Providers

Matt Kelly of IPC confirmed what we already knew, i.e no high-density substrate manufacturing exists in the US.

IC Substrate capability counts by Region.
Figure 1: IC Substrate capability counts by Region.

TechSearch on US Packaging Infrastructure 

Jan Vardaman, TechSearch International

Jan Vardaman of TechSearch International discussed Building the North American Advanced Packaging Ecosystem: Economic challenges and Opportunities. Vardaman worked on the 2021 IPC report, North American Advanced Packaging Ecosystem Gap Assessment: Critical Systems, Capability, Capacity Analysis, and Recommendations.

Vardaman echoed what we have been saying on IFTLE over and over again “If you don’t invest in the packaging infrastructure in North America, what is the point of making the chips here if you just send them overseas for assembly?” She also points to our lack of onshore capability as shown in Figure 2.

A lack of on-shore capability for IC substrates
Figure 2: A lack of on-shore capability for IC substrates

Her chart on global build-up substrate supplier capability further highlights what the US is missing. How long do we think it will take Calumet, Greensource, or TTM to develop this kind of capability?

Figure 3: Major build-up substrate supplier capability. (Source: TechSearch International)

Vardaman concludes:

  • Many years ago, U.S. PCB makers decided not to invest in IC package substrate production
  • Endicott Interconnect had some capability in the U.S., but a unique material set (sold to TTM)
  • Almost no capability in the U.S. to produce the most advanced IC substrates using build-up film to support high-density.
  • Substrate supplies are concentrated in Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, and a few in China
  • Some capacity in the Philippines and Vietnam, planned for Malaysia
  • A few small suppliers located in the U.S. but not with the capability to support existing high-performance computing customers such as (Intel, AMD, Cisco, Broadcom, etc.)
  • Advanced IC substrate requires state-of-the-art know-how, equipment, materials, and processes
  • Most equipment and material suppliers are located in Japan, the rest of Asia, and a little in Europe
  • Adding domestic semiconductor fab/foundries without a domestic IC-substrate supply an
  • OSAT assembly will lengthen the supply chain, not shorten it

In terms of assembly, TechSearch states that “Most assembly in North America is NOT advanced packaging.

For all the latest on Advanced Packaging stay linked to IFTLE………………………………………

Phil Garrou

Dr. Philip Garrou is a subject matter expert for DARPA and runs his consulting company…

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